Live the resurrected life today – A homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent, 2023

5th Sunday of Lent. March 26, 2023.

Ez 37:12-14; Rom 8:8-11; Jn 11:1-44

Live the resurrected life today.

There is no doubt that Jesus loved Lazarus and his two siblings a lot, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” We sense this love in the message of the sisters to Him, “The one whom you love is sick.”

There is also no doubt that Jesus had the power to heal Lazarus and prevent his death. Both Martha and Mary expected Jesus to come and heal the dying Lazarus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Even the skeptical crowd expected this too, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”

But Jesus chose to allow His dear friend, Lazarus, to die first. Why? He wanted to do at that moment what was most glorifying to the Father, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (Jn 11:1-44)

Evidently what was more glorifying to both the Father and Son then was not the immediate healing of His sick friend. The Father’s glory at that moment was not to meet the expectations of Lazarus’ mourning relatives. The Father’s greater glory lay in Lazarus’ experience of a new and better life with God and with others from the dark and lifeless isolation of the grave.  

Jesus once said, “As the Father has loved me, so I love you.”(Jn 15:9) The depth of the Father’s love for the Son was not shown in preventing Him from suffering and death but in raising Him from the grave, “This Jesus God raised up, and of that, we all are witnesses.”(Acts 2:32) Likewise, God the Father’s greatest desire for us is to experience that newness of life with God now in this life and in the life to come. In His undying love for us, God desires that we live the resurrected life even now.

When Jesus declared, “I am the Resurrection and the life,” He was indicating that, in Him, the resurrection is no longer just an event that we look forward to or just recall. The resurrection is now an ever-present reality made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We can experience resurrection every day when we receive the gift of a new and better life with God and for Him no matter what the past has been.

There are many ways in which we too can live a resurrected life daily. We live a resurrected life when we repent from our sins and return to the love of God and show this love in action. We are resurrected people when we have such an intense love for God that we keep God’s commandments without compromise, forgive others, spend more time in fervent prayer, serve others selflessly, labor to bring souls to Jesus by sharing our faith with all, etc., 

This new and better life with God and for God is what God desires the most for us at any time. That is why He has given us His Spirit. Without the Spirit of God living within us and inspiring us, we will live in the flesh and experience spiritual death and hopeless grave-like existence, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” We can only be alive and fruitful in God by the power of His Spirt, “If Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” (Rom 8:8-11) The truly resurrected life is impossible without possessing the Spirit of God.

We must remember this today when it seems we have forgotten the disastrous personal and social consequences of living according to the flesh. When we unrestrictedly indulge in the desires of the flesh, we are spiritually dead, completely unable to bear the fruits of personal holiness and perform acts pleasing to God. We cannot evangelize others and bring them to Christ. We lack the spiritual power to bring about converts or to even inspire holy and fervent religious and priestly vocations. The Church is spiritually impotent when we are living in the flesh while ignoring the new and better life with God that the Spirit is always inspiring in us.

One sign of living in the flesh is that we do not care about pleasing God. We are bent on pleasing ourselves at any cost. Those who live in the flesh constantly clamor for a new morality and a new Church. They cannot accept God’s absolute right and authority over truth, human life, and morals. They must constantly change everything to meet their ever-changing tastes and whims, even attempting to change their gender.

On the other hand, those who live by the Spirit are constantly being drawn closer to God and to please Him in all things. They want to grow in their love and service of God, to put more love into all that they do and endure for Him. They are not focused on changing truths or reality but on changing their lives for the greater glory of God. Consequently, they have that strong and joyful hope of final resurrection because they are choosing to live the resurrected life at each moment. Unless we too live a resurrected life now, our hope for final resurrection will dwindle.

If we feel that we have not been faithful to God as we had wanted to this Lenten season or that our past lives have been lived in the flesh and not in the Spirit, let the example of Lazarus give us hope. He was dead and completely unable to even do or beg for anything. He had been dead for four days. Yet, the commanding voice of Jesus was powerful enough to raise him from the dead. He could begin again his relationship with Jesus and his loved ones. He indeed lived as a witness to Christ, “On account of him (Lazarus), many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.”(Jn 12:10)

This voice of Jesus is also powerful today to bring us to deeper conversion and union with Him every day and to live accordingly for His glory. Jesus always loves us, in life and in death. His Spirit is also active in this life and in the next, drawing us closer to Him and inspiring us to live for Him. With Him and by His Spirit, a new and better life with God is always possible. If we hear His liberating voice and allow His Spirit to move us, we too can come out of our spiritual graves and begin to move from bad to good and to better in our relationship with Him.

Ever deeper conversion, living in stronger union with Christ every day, and living more completely for Him alone! This is the resurrected life. This is what Jesus wants for us the most and the only thing that would truly satisfy us in this life and in the life to come.  

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

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Why Jesus is always seeking truly humble hearts: A homily for the 4th Sunday of Lent, 2023

4th Sunday of Lent. March 19, 2023.

1Sam 16:1, 6-7, 10-13; Eph 5:8-14; Jn 9:1-41

Why Jesus is always seeking truly humble hearts.

Samuel was about to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as king because he was looking at their appearances and statures as well as their evident abilities. God gave him this priceless lesson, “Man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart.”

God does not just look at our hearts, but He looks into the depths of our hearts because He is always searching for true humility. Only a truly humble soul can have space for God, His holy will, and His gifts. Only a truly humble soul can receive the gifts that God is offering, no matter How God offers them, and respond to this gift in an appropriate way. David was humble enough at that time to receive the anointing that God was offering to him through Samuel, “From that day on, the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.”

In Jn 9:1-41, Jesus declared that the blindness of the man born blind was not the consequence of his sin or that of his parents. On the contrary, his lifelong blindness had a divine humbling purpose, “It is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” This man’s blindness had disposed him to cultivate humility and thus be ready to receive sight from Christ and respond appropriately for the glory of God.

We see the humility of this man on many levels. He was humble enough to attest to the good thing that Jesus had done for him, “He put clay on my eyes.” He did not take credit but gave all credit to Jesus for his restored sight. He also did not complain about Jesus’ unconventional healing method. He was humble enough to listen and trust in the words of Jesus to him, “He told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’” He did not ask why Siloam or why Jesus should smear muddy saliva on him and then tell him to go and wash.

He showed his humility also in acknowledging his own role in his healing, “So I went there (Siloam) and washed and was able to see.” His was no false humility that denied the good that he had done by the grace of God. Lastly, he showed humility by giving witness to Jesus no matter the cost or consequences, “They (Pharisees) threw him out.” He was no wimp who would change his testimony to succumb to or conform to public opinion. 

On the other hand, the Pharisees condemned themselves to spiritual blindness because, in their pride, they had no space for God and His gift of light. Jesus had a sobering rebuke to their claim of having sight, “But now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.” We remember the words of Jesus attesting that only truly humble souls can be enlightened by God, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to the childlike.” (Mt 11:25-26) Jesus rejoices in what the Father always does i.e., He reveals Himself only to humble souls. Proud souls can never be enlightened by Him.

St. Paul challenged the Ephesian Christians to oppose and dispel the darkness all around them, “Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness, rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret.”  

However, before they can successfully oppose and scatter the darkness, they had to humble themselves greatly. They had to humbly accept the gift of belonging to the kingdom of light and not of darkness, “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” They must also cultivate their humility because that is what God desires the most in their hearts, “Try to learn what is pleasing to God.” By cultivating their humility in the face of darkness, they could receive and respond to God’s graces and light and become instruments in the hands of God to dispel all darkness.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is an understatement to say that we are living in very dark times today. There are things being discussed and proposed today in the Church in the guise of a global Synodal process that are worse than the very things that St. Paul warned us to be ashamed to even mention. We have the German synodal way assembly recently voting a whooping 176-26 in favor of offering blessings for same-sex couples in the country. More disturbingly, 38 out of 58 German bishops favored the motion for such blessings.

This is a clear example of the darkness that emerges when we give free rein to pride in our hearts. We can disregard Sacred scripture and claim to be wiser and more pastorally in touch than over two thousand years of the Church’s moral Tradition. We can become our own magisterium too because we feel so unique and special in the Church that her morality no longer applies to us, and we need to constantly “update” her moral teaching. We can even arrogantly claim the power to bless that which God condemns and detests.

Unfortunately, when such pride is left to fester in the Church, we end up paying more attention to our appearance and acceptability to the worldly powers and we completely disregard what God really sees in the depths of our hearts. We become experts in covering up our scandalous crimes instead of humbly repenting of them. This is how the Church slowly fails in her vocation as Christ’s only instrument of salvation, the universal sacrament of salvation. Eventually, the Church becomes spiritually impotent in the face of the forces of darkness.

We also receive the same challenge of St. Paul to oppose, reject, and dispel the darkness of our times by living as children of light, “a light that produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.” We can do this only by cultivating our humility of heart, even in dark times. We can begin with deep gratitude for what God has done for us in allowing us to bear His light. We can also begin to listen to His words and trust in Him, ready to obey Him and give witness to Him, even if we are ostracized and abandoned by others. It is only such humility of heart that will allow the light of Christ to dispel the darkness of our times through us.

Let us turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the moment of darkness when humanity was hopeless in the face of sin and evil, God looked for the humblest of creatures to receive His only-begotten Son and respond appropriately for the greater glory of God. He found such deep humility only in the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary knew that God desired humility in her heart above all things, “He has regarded the humility of His handmaid.” (Lk 1:48) We are beneficiaries of the light of Christ today because Mary humbly received and responded to God’s gifts, even to the point of participating in His passion and death on Calvary to the greater glory of God and for our salvation.

Jesus is still looking into the depths of our hearts today, searching for true humility. Let us turn to the humble Virgin Mary to share in her humility. If we also allow her to form humble hearts in us, God will fill us with His gift of light and use us for the ultimate triumph of light over darkness in this dark world.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

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Living the message of Jesus on the cross: A homily for the 3rd Sunday of Lent, 2023.

3rd Sunday of Lent. March 12, 2023

Ex 17:3-7; Rom 5:1-2, 5-8; Jn 4:5-42

Living the message of Jesus on the cross

What is the message that we get from looking closely at a crucifix? Do we recoil because we think that it is too gory or revolting to look at? But is it really gorier than our secular movies and video games? Or is our sense of justice triggered as we see the unimaginable pain, unjust death, and humiliation of the Messiah? Or are we filled with guilt and shame because of our sins that we even get depressed? Or are we just plain indifferent to reflect deeply on a crucifix?

St. Paul invites us to see love above all things when we gaze on Jesus on the cross, “For Christ, while we were still helpless, died at the appointed time for the ungodly… But God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”(Rom 5:6,9) Jesus did not wait for us to become worthy, good, holy enough, wise, or talented before He died for us.

The main message of the crucifix is that we are always loved and precious to Jesus. Whether we are holy or not, happy or sad, laughing or crying, wise or foolish, healthy or sick, prayerful or not, appreciated or rejected by others, we are always loved and precious to Him. Nothing takes this fact away.

The Samaritan woman experienced how precious she was to Jesus, as she exclaimed to her neighbors about Jesus, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done.” She could not believe that He would speak to her so lovingly and gently despite knowing all her sins and struggles.

Though she was a Samaritan woman, a sinful woman who was living with her sixth male lover in a row, though she was so ashamed of herself that she came alone to draw water at the hot noontime and not with the others who drew water earlier in the cooler time of the day, though she was alienated and separated from her community, though she was confused in her theology and she had so many desires raging in her poor heart, Jesus lovingly initiated and sustained a heart-to-heart conversation with her, beginning with the request, “Give me a drink.”

Let us be clear: Jesus does not need her drink of water. He asked her for water because He wanted to give her something that she just does not deserve, “If only you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me and drink,’ you would have asked Him and He will have given you living water.” The entire purpose of this conversation was to dispose her to receive the love of the Spirit.

This woman accepted Jesus’ invitation to enter into a deep, honest, personal conversation with Him. She was so honest and open to Jesus. She did not try to pretend or hide anything from Him, not even the status of her married life, “I have no husband.” She was also open to receiving all the truth that Jesus offered to her, even if it was difficult and hard to understand. It was a beautiful conversation with honest and complete self-revelation on her part and that of Jesus.

She was completely changed once she experienced through this conversation that she was unconditionally loved and accepted by Jesus. She changed from being an isolated sinful mistress without direction in life to a woman of the community who gave witness to Jesus with great zeal. She who left the city that day as an estranged sinner returned as a fervent disciple of Jesus. We can even imagine her inviting her current lover to come and meet Jesus!

Unless we too accept Jesus’ invitation for a personal heart-to-heart conversation with Him and we are ready to act on this conversation, we will never know how loved and valuable we are to God. One good and honest conversation with Jesus completely changed this woman and moved her to live for Jesus. Just imagine what our lives, families, Church, and world would be like if we too have this type of conversation with Jesus every single day of our lives and then act on it to bring others into this same life-changing conversation with Him. This is the real accompaniment we need today, one that actually accompanies souls to Jesus, and not the vague and directionless accompaniment that is being touted endlessly in our times.

On the other hand, Ex 17:37 shows us the sad scenario when we live without this deep conviction that we are deeply loved and accepted by God in Jesus Christ. The Israelites had run out of water in the desert and they showed their weak identity as God’s chosen people. They forgot that they were God’s precious people. Like them, we too can begin to complain and grumble when things do not go our way, or we do not get what we want. Instead of building others up in the faith, we bring them down because we too begin to accuse and blame others for whatever we find unfavorable.

Lacking a sense of being loved and precious to God all the time, we behave like the Israelites and lose our peace of mind, doubting that God can provide for all our needs. We also ask, “Is the Lord in our midst or not?” We cannot patiently endure the hardships of life but are quick to use violence and aggression in words and actions just like the Israelites who were on the point of stoning Moses. We also become restless, and nothing can satisfy us because we do not have that “hope that does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured into our hearts.” Lastly, our hearts become hardened to the point that we cannot receive and give love to God and others, we cannot go deep in our conversion, and we cannot pray, serve, love, and forgive others.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lenten season is not just a time for conversion. It is also a time to be so converted that we begin to live for Christ and not for ourselves anymore. We are to do this despite our own lingering fears, sins, anxieties, worries, struggles, etc. We may even feel so sinful and overwhelmed by the evil in the world. We may have doubts that others will believe us or listen to us because of our own failures.  

We can do one thing to help us live for Christ despite our inner insecurities and external challenges. Let us find time to pray privately before a crucifix daily at least once a day. Let us not look at the crucified one with natural eyes that only see suffering, death, pain, blood, injustice, etc. But let us look at Him with eyes of faith, that allow us to see His undying accepting love for us.  

Looking at the crucified savior with eyes of faith, we know that He is alive, and He is always inviting us to deep and honest conversations with Him all the time. He is waiting for us with many graces. He is saying to us too, “Give me something to drink,” because He is asking us to give Him some of our time and loving attention. If we approach Him with complete honesty and receive everything that He is offering to us, we will also receive and be faithful to the true message of the crucifix – we are always loved and precious to Him. This is the only thing that will change us completely and move us to live for Jesus and Him alone.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

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What is our real motive for following Christ on mission? – A homily for the 1st Sunday of Lent, 2023.

1st Sunday of Lent. February 26, 2023.

Gen 2:7-9, 3:1-7; Rom 5:12,17-19; Mt 4:1-11

What is our real motive for following Christ on mission?

The way that Jesus Christ responded to His temptations in the desert reveals this about Him: He was not only on mission from the Father, but He was also clear and faithful to His motive for being on this mission. He was on mission out of love for the Father and love for souls.

His public mission had begun at the moment of His baptism. It was also at that moment that the Father declared about Him, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Jesus would henceforth do and endure all things out of love for the Father, to please the Father alone and to find all His fulfillment in the Father alone as He Himself attested, “He who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to Him.” (Jn 8:29)

He overcame all His temptations overwhelmingly because of His clarity and fidelity to this His motive. He refused the temptation to change stones to bread because the motive of His mission was not to get His material needs fulfilled on this earth. He was clear that He was not empowered by the Father for His own convenience. On the contrary, He came to die and become for us the very bread of life that we receive in the Eucharist.

He refused the temptation to jump down from the parapet of the temple because the motive of His mission was not to prove Himself to anyone but to win children for His heavenly Father. He rejected the temptation to gain the whole world by simply worshiping the devil because His motive was not to choose an easy way out but to make a loving self-sacrifice to the Father on the cross for the salvation of souls. (See Mt 4:1-11)

Because of Jesus’ fidelity to both His mission and his motive for being on mission, we too can share in His own motive of love in all that we do as we follow Him on mission. Adam did not seem to have cultivated the right motive for obeying God and thus it is was so easy for him to yield to the tempter and thus transmit nothing but sin and death, “Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned.”

On the other hand, the fidelity of Jesus to His mission and motive has won for us “abundance of grace and the gift of justification.” In the face of Adam’s sin that has been propagated and spread down to this day, we have access to the more powerful grace of salvation through the obedience of Jesus. (See Rom 5:12,17-19)

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we follow Christ in His mission from the very moment of our own baptism, we too will face many temptations. Moreso those of us who have been consecrated as priests and religious and committed ourselves exclusively to the mission of spreading the kingdom of God will face many more, stronger, and more persistent temptations.

These temptations do not mean that we are being abandoned by God or that we made the wrong decision in our decision to be on mission for Christ. These temptations are moments wherein Christ invites us to clarify, purify, and deepen our motive for following Him on mission in the first place. In the midst of our many motives, we must seek to make love for God the primary and overarching motive.

Only the grace of God and a true and purer motive can sustain us in times of temptations. Our challenge today in the face of the deluge of temptations, sin, and scandals inside and outside the Church is to cultivate a purer motive, a motive of love of God, in all that we do in our mission with Him. We can do so in the following ways:

Firstly, we can start by following Christ out of gratitude for all that He has done for us. Remember how we, the many, are made righteous only through His own righteousness. We have no chance of loving obedience to God apart from the “obedience of Christ unto death, even death on a cross.”(Phil 2:8)

Adam and Eve received everything that they had from God. God lovingly formed them from the clay of the earth, breathed life into them, planted a garden for them, and placed them there with a clear mission. In their ingratitude to God, they abandoned their mission by listening to the devil who had given them nothing but would eventually take everything good from them.

Secondly, we are careful not to abuse any of God’s gifts to us. We abuse God’s gifts when we use them for our selfish purpose and not for the purpose for which God has given them to us. Eve began to ignore God’s purpose when she began to look at the tree and see it as “good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom.”

Are we not living in times too today when God’s gifts are being abused? Many people are deceived into thinking that the human body is given to us to be chemically and surgically altered in a futile attempt to change their genders. Some think that the human body is only meant for pleasure and comfort. Many even in the Church think that we can impose our own purpose on the marital act and family without grave consequences.

Thirdly, we must cultivate our faith in God’s words to us and the penalties He stipulates. God had clearly warned our first parents not to touch the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “For the day that you eat of it you shall die.” The devil deceived them into doubting God’s words, “You certainly will not die.”(Gen 2:17, 3:4) The tempter calls God a liar!

We are seeing this same scenario play out today even in the Church when the members of the hierarchy teach that we should dispense with certain teachings on sexual morality because they are too intolerant or judgmental. They pretend to be more inclusive than God Himself. They unknowingly play the role of the tempter in making God’s people doubt the meaning and value of God’s words. We too will repeatedly fall into sin when tempted because we are not grounded in God’s words that offers us grace to resist out of love for God, hope for eternal life, and also imposes penalties for our disobedience.  

Fourthly, we must seek to cultivate our trust in God to provide for us all our needs. God wants to provide all things for us, no matter how important or trivial they are. Adam and Eve who experienced God providing them with existence and sustenance failed to trust Him to provide for them the fruits they wanted to eat! They chose to provide for themselves and fell into sin.

Jesus faced and overcame the temptations to provide for Himself because He knew that His Father will surely provide for Him and not disappoint Him, “Behold, angels came and ministered to Him.”

Lastly, we must be thoroughly grounded and rooted in God’s love and intention towards us. We are hopeless in the face of temptations when we doubt God’s love or His intention towards us. The devil deceived our first parents by insinuating that God was somehow holding back from them something that was good and beneficial to them, that God did not have their best interest at heart, “God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and evil.” The final temptation is doubting or questioning God’s intention towards us.

Let us contemplate a crucifix closely and see if we can honestly say to Jesus, “I see you dying on the cross for me. But I still doubt your love for me or the intention in your heart towards me.”

Our victorious Lord shares with us His life and mission in every Eucharist we celebrate. He also shares with us His own motive of love for the Father in all that we too do and endure. He invites us to begin again this Lenten season and renew our commitment to His mission for the salvation of souls. If by His grace we also clarify, deepen, and purify our motive of love for Him and for souls redeemed by His own blood, there is no temptation that we cannot ultimately overcome by this same grace.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

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We can obey God’s commandments from our hearts – A homily for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time,2023.

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2023. February 12, 2023.

Sir 15:15-20; 1Cor 2:6-10; Mt 5:17-37

We can obey God’s commandments from our hearts.

“Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I asked a graduate college student why he was not going to graduate as expected. His reply shocked me: “I cannot graduate because I forgot to write my thesis.” How could he honestly say that he forgot to write a thesis that was included in his academic curriculum from the first day and which all his other classmates wrote? How could he claim to have forgotten to write his thesis after taking thesis writing classes and having a thesis adviser assigned to him? His claim to have forgotten was as outrageous as a pregnant woman saying that she forgot to give birth!

He reminded me of how we tend to make up excuses when we face something that is difficult, challenging, or too demanding for us. We unknowingly form a habit of making excuses that spills into our spiritual lives, especially when it comes to keeping God’s commandments.

Sirach 15:15-20 reminds us of three things to keep in mind when we are tempted to make up excuses not to keep God’s commandments.

First, we always have free will. Thus, we can choose to be faithful or to sin.He says, “If you will, you can keep the commandments, they will save you…God has set before you fire and water to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.” Many factors like habit, stress, and fear could have diminished our responsibility but God never takes away our free will or forces us to act against our will.

Secondly, no matter the excuses that we make up for not keeping the commandments, God’s commandments are always valid and effective. Our fidelity or infidelity to His commandments always have grave consequences on us, “Before men are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.”

Thirdly, God does not accept or recognize our made-up excuses. In short, He does not give us permission to make up such excuses for our infidelities, “No one does He command to act unjustly, to none does He give license to sin.” If God does not give permission to sin, no one, not even the Church or state, can give anyone permission to languish in sin.  

Jesus affirms these three things when He said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.”(See Mt 5:17-37) He has  come to perfect and emphasize the necessary interior disposition of the commandments. He has also come to fulfill the commandments in us by His grace. As long as we can face and renounce our made-up excuses, we too can keep the commandments from our hearts that have been transformed by His grace and infused by His love.

Thus, He authoritatively defines for us our new vocation in these words: “Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” It is no longer enough for us to avoid killing, but we can and we should keep angry thoughts from our hearts as long as we are not making excuses to be angry. It is not enough for us to avoid adultery, but we can and we should keep lustful thoughts from our hearts if only we reject the many excuses we make for entertaining certain lustful thoughts and desires. It is not enough for us avoid false oaths, but we can and we should keep lies and insincerity from our hearts as long as we are not making excuses for our lies and deception.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are unknowingly forming the disastrous habit of making excuses not to keep the commandments of God. Some Christians today believe that the commandments are so outdated that they must be “updated” so that the Church becomes more inclusive to accommodate those who reject the call to conversion and faith. Some claim that they are so weak to keep the commandments that its demands must be ameliorated to make them more palatable for their taste. Some Church leaders erroneously believe that they are being pastoral when they pretend to dispense the faithful from fulfilling the commandments.

Some claim that they are no longer sure what the word of God actually stipulates and prohibits when it comes to God’s commandments. Some say that God has made them in a certain way and with certain sexual orientations that sort of dispenses them from fulfilling the commandment to live chastely. Some claim that they have been saved once and forever and thus they cannot lose their salvation no matter their moral choices. Some claim that surely our merciful God will understand that we are only human and so cannot but be unfaithful to His words. Some justify infidelity by claiming that others are doing so too.

Let these words ring deep in our hearts, “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”(Gal 6:7) Our made up excuses do not help us at all but only make us reap the horrible fruits of corruption and depravity. Let us today in prayer beg for the grace to name and let go of the many excuses that we make to dispense us from fidelity to God’s commandments.

Instead of multiplying our excuses for not keeping God’s commandments, let us begin to cooperate with His grace by cultivating honest and trusting hearts. Let us show our honesty towards God by accepting and acknowledging His moral truths with its high demands. We show our honesty by not settling for external acts alone without true inner dispositions. Let us be honest with Him in all our trials, persistent temptations, sinful desires, moral failures, fears, addictions. We show our honesty by our sincere and persistent attempts to be faithful to His words.

But we must not trust in our efforts or resolve in keeping His commandments. Let us place all our trust in the grace and mercy of God. His grace will move and sustain us to live by God’s standards and not by our mediocre worldly standards. His mercy will forgive and heal us when we fail in fidelity to Him and raise us up to begin again with hope and courage. That is why God gave us the sacrament of Reconciliation in our struggles to be faithful to His commandments. Why give us such a sacrament if we are permitted to make up excuses and determine our own moral standards?

Jesus Christ wants us to be in His kingdom of life, joy, and peace, “Where I am, there too my servant will be.” (Jn 12:26) Keeping His commandments out of love for Him remains the only valid and effective way into His kingdom and to avoid eternal death, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”(Jn 14:15) His grace in us too is powerful to fulfill the great demands of the commandments that we were helpless to do on our own.

He comes to us in each Eucharist to fulfill these commandments in us and through us. Let us cooperate with His grace by abandoning our many excuses, become honest and sincere with Him, and trust in Him all the days of our lives no matter our moral successes or failures. This is how we will obey Him from our hearts, teach others to be obedient too, and be called the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

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Our faith in Jesus makes us the salt and light of the world – A homily for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2023.

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time. June 6, 2023.

Is 58:7-10; 1Cor 2:1-5; Mt 5:13-16

Our faith in Jesus makes us the salt and light of the world

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

A student of mine asked me a question recently: “How can we sinners bring the saving Gospel to a world like ours that has become deaf to the Gospel and refuses to make use of right reasoning?” I could sense the near-hopeless tone in his question. He was feeling small and inadequate in the daunting task of living and proclaiming the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ in a world that has grown obstinate, indifferent, and even intolerant of the demands of the Gospel.  

St. Paul knew very well that feeling of being inadequate in his ministry. He was accused of lacking the necessary wisdom, skills, and rhetoric of other elitist preachers. He confessed his fears and weaknesses as he proclaimed the Gospel to them, “I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom…I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling.”

But he never lost his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” In the face of such personal inadequacies and criticism from the Corinthians, he held on tenaciously to his faith in Jesus because this faith is the very power of God in his life, “I came to you with a demonstration of Spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (1Cor 2:1-5)

No matter how inadequate we may feel in the face of challenges and our own poverty as Jesus’ disciples, we must never lose our faith in Jesus Christ because this faith is God’s most powerful gift to us. Remember that “Christ dwells in our hearts through faith.” (Eph 3:17) Thus our faith in Him has the power to prevail over our inadequacies and whatever this world may throw at us as His disciples. St. John affirms it in these words, “This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith.” (1Jn 5:4) Believing in the crucified and risen Christ, we experience within us the same power that raised Him from the dead. Nothing in this world can prevail over the power that is ours from faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

When Jesus asks us to be the “salt of the earth,” and the “light of the world,” He is not asking us to be or do something without the gift of faith in Him. Without a living faith in Him, we cannot be the salt of the earth or the light of the world. He who has come to “cast fire upon this earth” (Lk 12:49) intends to do so in and through our faith-filled hearts. He is the one who instills joyful hope in us because He has “overcome the world.”(Jn 16:33) He is the only salt and light of this world, living and acting within us when we are living in faith.  

Without faith in Jesus Christ, we cannot be transformed by Him and we cannot transform our world. We will instead be corrupted and “evangelized” by the spirit of this world. Without this faith in Him, we cannot love and serve God all the time, but we will begin to look for something for ourselves in return. We also cannot do good to others all the time because our selfishness will dominate us. Without faith in Jesus Christ, we cannot overcome the many challenges and struggles that are in this world. Without a deep faith in Him, we cannot appreciate the role of pain and suffering in the mission of the Church to bring souls to Him. When faith in Him is lacking, we cannot appreciate the value of the human soul redeemed by His blood. Lastly, we cannot bring others to know and love God when our faith in Him is lacking.

Jesus has a double invitation for us in Mt 5:13-16. Firstly, when He asked us not to lose our saltiness, He was asking us not to lose our faith in Him for any reason.  He asks us to hold on to the gift of faith we have received in baptism even in the face of personal suffering, sin, weakness, failures, temptations, persecutions, rejection, losses, etc.

Secondly, when He asked that “our light shine before others so that they may see our good works and glorify our heavenly Father,” He was asking us to make use of our faith well for the glory of God and the good of others. Jesus is calling us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world by not losing our faith in Him but using that faith well.  We become tasteless salt and useless lamps when our faith in Him dwindles.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the spirit of the world is a very strong, aggressive, and pernicious spirit. We have no chance to bring the fullness of the Gospel to this world and be faithful to it too without cultivating a deep faith in Christ. The many scandals and heterodox teaching in the Church, and the abandoning of the faith by many, are painful reminders of what happens when we try to engage this world without being grounded in our faith in Jesus Christ.

Let us turn to Mary at these challenging times. Didn’t she also feel so small in the face of her challenging vocation when she asked, “How can this be since I have no relations with a man?” But she believed and held on to the words of the angel assuring her of the power of faith in Jesus, “With God, all things are possible.”(Lk 1:26-38) She believed then and she never lost her faith in Jesus Christ or in His mission. On the contrary, she continued to grow in this faith till the dark moments of Calvary and beyond. May she help us too to hold on to our faith at this time.

Let us also receive the Eucharist regularly. No matter the challenges we are facing to live and spread the Gospel today, Jesus, the “author and perfector of our faith,”(Heb 12:2) comes to abide in us and renew our faith by His power in each Eucharist.  Let us never lose this most powerful gift of faith but use it well so that He can make us effective and hopeful salt of the earth and light of the world.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

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How God invites us to His own Beatitude: A homily for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2023.

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time. January 29, 2023.

Zep 2:3; 3:12-13; 1Cor 1:26-31; Mt 5:1-12

How God invites us to His own Beatitude

Lack of power. Lack of wisdom. Lack of status. Lack of control.

We do not like these things and we will do anything to eradicate them from our lives. We try so many spiritual practices and consume all sort of self-help materials trying to get over these things. We feel confused and discouraged because they still linger despite all the time, energy, and prayers we employ to remove them.  

It will help us to reflect deeply on the following words of St. Paul in 1Cor 1:26-31

“Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.”

The God who has chosen us also chose these things for us in our lives and vocations because they are the means by which He brings us to share in His own happiness, His own Beatitude, “The Beatitudes reveal the goal of human experience, the ultimate end of human acts: God calls us to His own beatitude.”(CCC #1719) By the design of God, these things we consider nuisances in our lives are the very first step in our living the Beatitudes (Cf Mt 5:1-12)

We must always remember the divine origin of our desire for happiness, “This desire for happiness is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it.”(CCC #1718) God has not placed desire for happiness in our heart so that we can find that happiness by our personal effort, searching for happiness in ourselves or in created things. The undesirable things that we experience in ourselves also serve to make us turn to God and not to ourselves as the source of happiness.

Since God has placed this desire for happiness in our hearts, we never lose hope in attaining true and lasting happiness. God will not abandon us to our weaknesses, blindness, and poverty. He will do everything to bring us to the fullness of that happiness in His heavenly kingdom. God cannot frustrate the attainment of the same desires that He has lovingly put into our hearts.  

This is why we must focus on Christ alone if we are going to respond to this vocation to Beatitude and not succumb to discouragement because of the many unfavorable things in our lives. Jesus Christ embodies and reflects these Beatitudes to us and make it possible for us to imitate His own blessed attitudes, “The Beatitudes depict the countenance of Jesus Christ and portray His charity.”(CCC #1717) All that we lack and need are in Jesus alone, “He (Christ) has become for us wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification and redemption.”

We have a choice to make now. We can choose to focus on the power, wisdom, status, ability, or achievement that we lack in this life and lose all hope of happiness in this life and in the life to come. By so doing, we follow the worldly spirit of senseless violence, sadness, and depression. We may even begin to think that true happiness is not possible, or it is beyond our reach. Our lives will have no meaning and we will settle for the false and transient joys of this life that leave us emptier and more frustrated.

Or we can choose to contemplate the face of Christ all the time, even as we face our nothingness and poverty. We can sense in the face of Jesus that God is always inviting us to His own happiness and making available to us all the graces that we need. We know that He understands our poverty and weaknesses, “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.”(Mt 8:17) We can place in His hands our own attitudes that frustrate our happiness and receive from Him His own beatifying attitudes.

May the God of the Beatitudes who never ceases to invite us to His own happiness give us the grace to choose to focus on His Son, Jesus Christ, and share in His attitude always so that we can have true and lasting happiness, even as we experience things that we do not really like.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

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We must convert for the right reason: A homily for the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, 2023

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. January 22, 2023

Is 8:23-9:3; 1Cor 1:10-13, 17; Mt 4:12-23.

We must convert for the right reason

“From that time on, Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

When I asked a close relative of mine what her plans were for the new year, she answered me, “I don’t know why but I sense that God is inviting me to make my relationship with Him my priority from this time on. I just feel that I need to put God alone in the center of my life.” She does not know why she is experiencing a call to deeper conversion but she is ready to respond to it.

Why do we experience those moments when we feel that we want a deeper and more authentic life with God? Is it because we are tired and sick of our sinful or mediocre lives? Is it because we are suffering the devastating effects of our sinful choices? Or is it because we want the peace of soul that we know we get only from true conversation back to God. These self-focused reasons are good in themselves but they alone cannot move us to true ongoing conversion.

Jesus reveals to us the real reason why we are experiencing this constant impulse to conversion and the reason we should respond appropriately. We experience this call to deeper conversion because God, whose kingdom is now present to us in Jesus Christ, is always inviting us to deeper conversion. Jesus inaugurated His public ministry with this urgent invitation that stems from the presence of His kingdom with us, “From that time on, Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Because the kingdom of heaven is near in Christ, God is always drawing us into a right relationship with Him in Jesus Christ. Without the access to the grace of the Holy Spirit that we enjoy in this kingdom, we cannot obey the call of Jesus to deeper conversion, “The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”(CCC 1989) By the power of this same Spirit, God is detaching us from sin, reconciling us with Himself, and communicating to us a true participation in the very holiness of Jesus Christ.

In short, God in Christ Jesus is always laboring to free us from enslavement to sin and whatever kills our freedom. He is laboring to bring us to become more like His Son, Jesus Christ. This is why we keep experiencing that prompting to repentance from sin and selfish living. In the kingdom of heaven, we have access to all the graces that we need. Thus, we have no reason to stop responding to the call for deeper conversion.

Without responding to this call to deeper conversion, we cannot respond to the greater demands of discipleship. It is not a coincidence that Jesus calls all to conversion first, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near,” before He called His first disciples to follow Him, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (See Mt 4:12-23) He, first of all, called them to leave their occupation, fish, net, boat, hired workers, father. Later, He would invite them to let go of their own lives, “Whoever does not renounce all that He has cannot be my disciple.”(Lk 14:33) He would also later invite them to embrace suffering for Him, “He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”(Mt 10:38) The freedom needed to respond to the ever greater demands of discipleship comes from ongoing conversion.

One good sign that we are truly on the path of conversion is that we begin to see, value, and pursue things the way that God wants us to do. God’s gifts are given to us for use in building up the Church, the body of Christ, in the likeness of Christ, “And His gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors, and teachers, for the equipment of the saints, for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and to the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”(Eph 4:11-13)

However, the Corinthian community was bitterly divided because they began to see the gifts and vocations as a means of division and disunity instead of seeing them as means of spiritual growth and unity. St. Paul had to remind them that they were very different from the attitude of Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, “Is Christ divided?”(1Cor 1:13) The body of Christ cannot be divided when Christ the Head is not divided. Their division showed their need for deeper conversion. It is not enough to become a member of the Church without striving to become like Christ the Head. They too had to respond to the greater demands of discipleship through ongoing conversion.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, when we ignore this call to conversion, we cannot see our vocations and its demands the way that God sees them. We see only struggles and difficulties in the Christian life and vocation. We see God’s commandments as a burden that we must be delivered from. We see ourselves as failures and not as saints in the making. Our gifts become a burden to us and are no longer a sign of God’s love for us. We cannot see the beauty of being called to follow Christ, to belong to Him, and to communicate His life to others through our words and actions.

Every Christian vocation is a call to discipleship. In Jesus Christ, the demands of discipleship increase steadily because Jesus wants all from us and will never settle for less. It is so easy for many of us to become disillusioned in our vocations because we feel the demands unbearable for our weak and fragile natures. We can frustratingly declare about our vocation, “This is not what I expected. I want out now.” Sadly, we see many failed and abandoned commitments in the Catholic priesthood, religious life, and married life.

The solution is not to give in to discouragement, throw in the towel and abandon our commitments. The proper answer is to be more attentive and responsive to the constant call to deeper conversion and do so for the right reason – in Jesus Christ, the kingdom is near and He is drawing us to Him. We respond to this call always because we know that it is only by doing so that we can experience the liberating and empowering graces of the kingdom of heaven now. It is only by this grace that we can respond to the great demands of our vocations.

Nowhere is the kingdom of heaven more present to us than in the Eucharist, where Christ is present with us in His body, blood, soul, and divinity. This is where He begins to tug at our hearts and inspire us to deeper conversion. Let our conversion be urgent and total. Let it be ongoing and lifelong. Let it be directed to God and His ways of acting and choosing. Let it be decisive no matter what the past has been.

When our conversion is alive and deeper mainly because the kingdom of heaven is near, we can follow Jesus Christ faithfully no matter the demands of discipleship.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

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Childlikeness is always in season

Feast of the Santo Nino. January 15, 2023

Is 9:1-6, Eph 1:3-6, 15-18; Mt 18:1-5, 10

Childlikeness is always in season

I was in the back seat of a car stuck in traffic when I made eye contact with a little boy who was standing at the roadside. He smiled at me, and I smiled back. Then we started waving at each other like long-lost friends reuniting in the traffic jam of Metro Manila. We kept smiling and waving at each other till we were out of sight.  

We were exhibiting childlikeness, the ability to freely receive and give love to another.  We were not worried about the intentions of our hearts or what the other would think. We were not concerned about status or language barriers or the fact that we were complete strangers to each other. We were simply expressing appropriate love for each other in the way that we could in that circumstance – by smiling and waving at each other.

The Santo Nino is one of the oldest and most popular devotions of Filipino Catholics. This devotion to the Holy Child Jesus celebrates God’s loving act in sending His only begotten Son to us in the form of an infant to make us His children and to show us how we are to live as His children. But are we really learning childlikeness from the infant Jesus?

The child Jesus receives everything from the Father, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessings in the heavens.” Jesus would also communicate to us all these gifts of love by His own death and resurrection, “Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”(Eph 5:2) In this infant Jesus we too have become children of God and we too can freely receive and give love to God and others by our actions, “In love He destined us for adoption to Himself through Christ.”(See Eph 1:3-6)

Jesus strongly states that we cannot enter into His heavenly kingdom if we do not grow in this childlike spirit. When the disciples asked Him who was the greatest in the kingdom, He replied, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” No matter our status in the Church or how much we do or endure for Christ in His building up His kingdom, we cannot even enter His kingdom if we do not have a childlike spirit.

So, we must seriously ask ourselves the following questions to gauge how much childlikeness we have attained.

Are we freely receiving the love of God that He offers to us? Are we open to receiving the love of God that He offers to us even as we face our sinfulness? Do the pains of life make us doubt or even question His love for us? How are we buying into the lie that we have to be good and holy to receive His love? How are we trying to earn that love of God for us by our actions instead of simply receiving it as a gift that it truly is? Are we so overcome with fear of what He will ask of us that we do not first receive His love as a gift? Are we even open to repeatedly receiving His merciful love for us in the sacrament of Reconciliation? How open are we to His mysterious love for us in times of pain and suffering?

Are we freely receiving the love that others offer to us? Do we really see others as a gift because God comes to us through them? Didn’t Jesus say, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me?” How do we allow past hurts to hinder us from receiving anew the gift of their love for us? How do we overcome that mindset that focuses on the intention of others in offering us their love? How do we allow complaining, grumbling, and rivalry to close our hearts toward the love being offered to us? How do we find ourselves wondering about the hidden intentions in the heart of those who offer us their love?

Are we freely giving love to God through our actions? How are we seeking to know and love God more as our Heavenly Father? Are we striving to love Him more through prayer and the sacraments? How firm is our resolve to do the will of God as far as we can grasp it at any given moment? What are we doing to make God better known and loved by others through our words and actions? Do we stop loving God because we do not seem to get any temporal benefits from Him?

Are we freely giving love to others through our actions?  Do we sincerely seek the temporal and eternal good of others? Do we treat them as brothers and sisters out of love for God? Do we freely extend to others the merciful love of God that we have experienced? Do we heed the warning of Jesus not to “despise any of these little ones?” (See Mt 18:1-5, 10)

Childlikeness is always cultivated in the context of our relationship with God and with others. Nothing in this life humbles us, fills us with childlike trust in God, moves us to obedience, or makes us endure suffering in this life, more than God’s unconditional and unceasing love for us sinners. The love that others have for us also helps us to see the goodness that God has given to us and our common bond with each other.

It is only by living as children of God that we have inner joy, strength, and hope. We do not quit in the battle for righteousness and we do not allow the struggles of this life to kill the joyful hope that comes from having God as our heavenly Father. We have these and more as God’s children because we are fulfilling the will of God by journeying in the right direction toward our eternal home with God and the saints.

Jesus knows how hard it is for us to become childlike. He comes to us in every Eucharist with that love that humbles us and fills us with confidence in Him. It is a love that we do not deserve at all. But let us receive that love today and freely offer it back to God and others through loving action. This is what makes us children of God and privileged beneficiaries of His own joy, light, and strength.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

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Learning true worship from the magi – A homily for the solemnity of the epiphany,2023

Solemnity of the Epiphany. January 8,2023

Is 60:1-6; Eph 3:2-3, 5-6; Mt 2:1-12

Learning true worship from the magi

I was recently invited to bless a renovated house owned by a newlywed couple. They were expecting their first child, a baby girl. Their soon-to-be-born daughter dominated our discussion. Everything – the house decorations, the future plans of the parents, their choice of furniture, food, and beddings, etc. – was centered on the arrival of their baby girl.

Even in our abortion-obsessed times, many still recognize that the birth of a new child calls for new action and new priorities in the life of the family. Imagine the new action demanded by the birth of a baby whose only Father is the eternal God. Imagine the new way of life that the birth of the baby Jesus demands from us who are God’s children. Surely, it just cannot be business as usual.

The magi allowed the birth of the baby Jesus to change their lives and move them to a new action. They abandoned their pagan gods and, though they were not Jews, traveled to a foreign country to worship this Jewish baby, “We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” The magi show us how the birth of the baby Jesus must impact our lives and move us.  

Jesus has come looking for us.  

The magi look for Jesus and found Him in a manger, “They saw the child with Mary His mother.” They found Him only because Jesus has come looking for us first, “The Son of man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”(Lk 19:10)

Are we also looking for Him? Jesus is now available to us. There are no gate fees and we do not need to be vaccinated to have an audience with Him! We too can find Him anywhere and at any time because He has promised us, “Seek and you will find.”(Mt 7:7) There is no place or situation in which He is not present and accessible to us.

Jesus has come to stay with us always

The magi came all this way simply to spend time in worship of the baby Jesus. They left their business and family for a few moments of worship of the true God.

Are we also staying with Jesus today? How much time do we devote to personal prayer in His presence? Are we even aware of His presence in our daily life activities? What are we ready to sacrifice so that we can spend quality time with Jesus? How long and how frequently do we stay with Him, pondering His words?

Jesus has come to give us gifts

We know that the magi brought gifts to Jesus – gold, frankincense and myrrh. But they also received the gifts that Jesus offered to them. They received the gift of joy, “They were overjoyed in seeing the star.” They also received the gift of divine guidance as God guided them back home along a different path to avoid the murderous Herod. They brought gifts to Jesus and they also received gifts from Him.

Are we also bringing gifts to Jesus? Are we bringing to Him our love and work? Are we offering to Him our daily sacrifices and prayers? Are we bringing to Him all our beings and all that touches us as well as our loved ones? Are we bringing Him our sins, the main thing that He wants to save us from? Are we also receiving the gifts that He is offering to us – peace, light, strength, hope, etc.?

Jesus has come to gather us together

Notice that the magi came to Jesus as a group. They also tried to inform Herod and his people that they were seeking for the newborn king. They must have brought news of this new baby to their people.

Are we also bringing others to Jesus? Are we content with worshipping Him alone while others do not know about Him or do not care to know about Him? Is our love for others courageous enough to invite them to experience the love of Jesus in the Eucharist or in the sacrament of reconciliation?

Jesus took a risk to come to us.

Jesus freely chose to come to a violent world to save us. Herod wanted to kill Him even before He spoke a single word or performed a miracle. The magi also took a great risk to leave the security of their country and to come to a foreign land just to worship the baby Jesus. They risked the hostile stares and ridiculing look of the Israelites as they sought for Jesus.

What risks are we taking today for Jesus? Are we courageous enough to be faithful Catholics in an age of deception and compromise? Are we courageous enough to speak the difficult truths for the sake of Jesus? For the sake of Jesus, are we ready to be different from this world in our thinking, choosing, and acting?

Jesus has come to transform us.

The magi were transformed. They who had depended on the guidance of a star to bring them to the manger left the manger as men who were directed interiorly by the spirit of God. Their time of adoration had changed them completely.

Do we approach Jesus with that readiness and willingness to be interiorly transformed by Him? Do we come to Him as we are and allow Him to transform us or do we pretend that we do not need to be transformed? How deep is our desire to be transformed into more Christlike men and women?

Jesus has come to give us His own joy.

The magi were doubly joyful as they searched for Jesus and found Him. They experienced that joy of finding the Lord Jesus, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:22) They showed that joy by offering Him precious and appropriate gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Are we also ready to receive His own joy? Are we ready to forsake the false joys that we pursue that never satisfy us but only increase our desires?

Herod knew about the time and place of birth of the baby Jesus but he did not allow the birth of Jesus to move him or change his life’s priority. He was most likely fixated on preserving his crown. He thus had no joy or peace. He could only spread this joyless spirit to all his subjects, “He was greatly troubled and all Jerusalem with him.” The same thing happens to us if we do not allow the birth of the baby Jesus to impact our lives.

The Eucharist is always an epiphany, a privileged encounter with the baby Jesus who is always born on the altar at Mass. If the birth of this baby changes us and moves us as God intends, nothing can stop us from experiencing the peace and joy of the baby Jesus.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!

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