Finding peace through the mercy of God: A homily for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, 2021

2nd Sunday of Easter. April 11, 2021.

Acts 4:32-35; 1Jn 5:1-6; Jn 20:19-31

Finding peace through the mercy of God

The early Church is described in this way, “With great power the apostles bore witness to the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” We are also told how they gave this witness to the risen Christ, “There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.”(Acts 4:33-35) Thus, they gave witness to the risen Christ by readily sacrificing something to meet the needs of others in community.

They gave witness to the Resurrection by becoming signs and instruments of divine mercy in our world. Divine mercy triumphed over sin, evil, suffering and death at the Resurrection because that was when our crucified Savior, Jesus Christ, rose from the grave to give us the things that we needed the most but did not deserve at all. He willingly sacrificed Himself to merit for us things that we needed but did not deserve e.g. divine graces, forgiveness, peace, love and hope, etc.

The risen Christ appeared to His terrified disciples not to deservedly rebuke them but to give them peace, “Peace be with you.” (Jn 20:19) They could not find that peace by huddling together behind locked doors in fear of the Jews. This peace is first a gift of divine mercy from the risen Christ. In His mercy, Jesus freely offered them that gift of peace that their scared hearts badly needed and which they did not deserve because of their unfaithfulness to Him. He showed them the wounds on His hands and side to impress on them the truth that He willingly sacrificed His life so that they could have this precious gift of peace.

But this peace is not a just a gift to be received; it is also a response to the call to mission as signs and instruments of divine mercy to the world by the power of the Holy Spirit, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you…Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven and whose sins you retained are retained.” (Jn 20:21-22) In His mercy, He has also called and equipped us with His own Spirit to be on mission for Him as signs and instruments of His mercy in our world. For us to possess and enjoy His gift of peace, we too must be ready to sacrifice something so as to meet the needs of others, whether they deserve it or not.

Let us reflect briefly on the example of Thomas in the event of the Resurrection. The other disciples tried to share with him the Good News, “We have seen the Lord.” But Thomas refused to believe and gave conditions for his belief, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”(Jn 20:25) They did not throw him out there and then as an apostate but gave him the patience and understanding that he needed but did not deserve.

In His mercy, Jesus repaid His visit and again showed to Thomas the wounds He bore for us so that we could have in Him “every spiritual blessing in the heavens.”(Eph 1:3) The earlier words of the other disciples and their merciful attitude towards Thomas prepared and disposed him to now receive the much-needed but undeserved faith from the risen Christ and to exclaim, “My Lord, and my God.” Like Christ, the Head, the Church too reflects divine mercy to all, striving to meet the needs of all persons.

Our risen Lord once said to St. Faustina Kowalska, “Mankind will never know peace until it turns to my mercy.” We will have peace only when we turn to His mercy and receive it first as a gift and then embrace the mission to become signs and instruments of divine mercy in our world.

For us to have this peace of Christ, we must answer these following questions correctly:

First, do we receive the mercy of God as a gift? The risen Christ is not ashamed to show the wounds that He bore out of love for us. Looking at His wounds, are we also bold enough to show Him our wounds from our own sinful choices and from the harm that others have done to us? Are we trying to hide our wounds in shame and pretend that we do not have them? How confidently do we bring our sins to the Sacrament of Confession? Do we leave these sins at the cross after receiving His mercy or do we still continue to beat ourselves over our past sins?

Second, how aware are we of the many needs in our world today? Are we aware of the need for selfless love, acceptance, healing, forgiveness, hope, faith, and saving truths in our world? How much do we care about the many material and spiritual needs in our world? How concerned are we for the infants crying out for a chance just to be allowed to live and not be murdered in their mothers’ wombs through abortion? Are we even touched by any of these needs?

Third, what are we ready to sacrifice now to meet these needs? Are we willing to give up some of our time and treasures for the sake of these needs? Are we ready to put our talents and our reputations on the line too if needed to assuage these needs in others? Are we ready to give up our comfort, security, prestige for the sake of those in need? Are we ready to let go of our hurt feelings and wounded egos so as to provide these needs? We cannot be signs and instruments of divine mercy if we are unwilling and unready to sacrifice anything for those in need out of love for Christ.

We cannot wait for people to become deserving before we reflect to them the mercy of God we have received. Jesus did not wait for us to become deserving of His gifts before He laid down His life for us, “God proved His love for us in that while we still sinners, Christ died for us.”(Rom 5:8) The Blessed Virgin Mary did not wait for Elizabeth to ask for or deserve her visit,
“Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”(Lk 1:43) If we really want to have the peace of Christ in our hearts, why should we wait for others to appreciate us or deserve anything from us before we attend to their authentic needs?

The Eucharist is Christ’s self-sacrifice by which He has mercifully won for us all the undeserved things that we need, especially the gift of His peace. Jesus also empowers us with His Spirit to be on mission as witnesses of His Resurrection and as signs and instruments of divine mercy in our world. By the power of this Spirit, we can also participate in Christ’s self-sacrifice. We will possess and enjoy His peace only when we too willingly sacrifice something for the needs of others, whether they deserve it or not.

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

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Renewing the promises of Holy Baptism: A homily for Easter Sunday, 2021

Solemnity of Easter. April 4, 2021

Acts 10:34,37-43; 1Cor 5:6-8; Jn 20:1-9

Renewing the promises of Holy Baptism   

I was praying the Liturgy of the Hours in the morning with a religious community of priests and brothers when they did something that really edified me. In the course of the prayers, the prayer-leader said, “Let us briefly renew our religious vows and consecration in silence.” They all paused for about ten seconds before continuing their communal vocal prayer.

No matter the successes or failures of the past day, they paused at the beginning of a new day to silently renew their vows of religious consecration. That act impressed on me the truth that what is not consciously and constantly renewed and deepened will surely die. If you doubt this truth, just try traveling out of the country with an expired passport and see what happens!

What we have just contemplated and experienced in the Lenten season is God in Christ constantly renewing and deepening His love for us sinners despite all our infidelities. This deepening of divine love reached its climax on the cross when Jesus gave Himself completely and proclaimed, “It is finished.”(Jn 19:30) Only Jesus Christ can say those last words because He has indeed given all and there is nothing left for Him to give.

On this side of life, we can never utter our own, “It is finished,” because we can still renew and deepen our baptismal promises. To be Easter people means that we can always begin, renew, and grow in our commitment to God by renouncing evil and embracing good.

The grace of the Resurrection enables us to constantly renounce Satan and His empty promises so as to embrace the Triune God, unite in faith with Christ, participate in the communion of the saints and be fully engaged in the very mission of Christ in His Holy Catholic Church. As Easter people, if we do not consciously and constantly renew and deepen our baptismal promises, our faith, hope and love will surely die.

St. Paul reminds the Corinthians that, since “Christ, the paschal lamb has been sacrificed,” they must get rid of the old evil habits and tendencies so as to embrace the new life in Christ, “Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”(1Cor 5:7-8) In the face of the resurrection, St. Paul calls them to a renewal of their commitment to live for Christ.

Most likely we have come to experience in our lives moments when we did not understand what the Lord was asking of us. We may even feel abandoned by God or deceived by Him in our commitments. We may feel like evil seems to have the final word. We just cannot seem to reconcile our calling with what we are experiencing in the present moment. What do we do when we just cannot understand life’s events in the light of our vocations?

Mary of Magdala and the two disciples were really puzzled by the empty tomb. Grave robbers usually rob the grave of artifacts and leave the dead body. But now, they see the burial clothes of Jesus all intact and in order but no dead body. We are told, “For they did not yet understand the Scripture that He had to rise from the dead.”(Jn 20:9) They had believed everything else except the truth that His resurrection was inevitable. In short, they did not mature in their faith.

This is what happens to us when we do not constantly grow in faith, hope and love – our faith waivers in the face of the unexplainable things. We do not grow in these theological virtues because we do not consciously and constantly renew our baptismal promises just as God renews His promises to us. We hardly pause and consciously renounce the many deceptions of the devil so as to choose Christ and His will for us at that moment. Doesn’t’ life and world events easily make us forget that we are members of the Body of Christ by baptism and called to be on mission for Him in the Church?

We may not understand all things in this life but the more we choose to renew deepen our baptismal promises, the more our faith will be renewed and we will recognize the power of the risen Christ in our midst. No matter the mysterious things we face in this life, we can remain faithful to our vocations to the extent that we are striving to faithfully live out our baptismal promises.

St. Louis de Montfort teaches us that our life of total consecration to Mary is a renewal and deepening of our baptismal consecration. When we give ourselves and all that we are to May through this total consecration, we begin to share in that invincible faith of Mary. In faith, she gave herself completely to God at the Annunciation as she pronounced her fiat, “Behold the Handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.”(Lk 1:38)

In faith, our Blessed Mother also constantly renewed and deepened her self-offering to Him, until she too gave herself by standing with Jesus on Calvary even though she could not understand everything. Her faith in her Son’s resurrection is so strong that she did not come looking for His dead body in the grave but confidently awaited her Son’s glorious resurrection. She can and she will surely help us to renew and deepen our baptismal promises each day.

The Eucharist is the Easter sacrament where Christ renews His promise of abiding presence with us and His saving sacrifice in His body and blood. Because He renews His promise at every Eucharist, we are indeed Easter people who can renew and deepen our own promises at every moment.  If we choose to consciously renew and deepen these promises through our participation in the unwavering faith-filled fiat of our Blessed Mother Mary, our faith will never die, our hope will remain strong and joyful, and our love will endure till the very end even if we do not understand everything.

Happy Easter to all God’s Easter people.

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

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Our vocation to gather souls with Christ: A homily for the 5th Sunday in Lent, 2021

5th Sunday in Lent. March 21, 2021

Jer 31:31-34; Heb 5:7-9; Jn 12:20-9-33

Our vocation to gather souls with Christ

One bible passage that helps me to make sense of suffering in my life is Mt 12:30 where Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me. Whoever does not gather with me scatters.” In the face of the inevitable sufferings of life, this verse reminds me that my choice to be united with Christ also entails gathering souls to Christ by sharing in His own attitude towards suffering.

When the disciples informed Jesus that the Greeks had come looking for Him, He reminded them of the unavoidable and unpreventable suffering that was coming His way, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat.”

He also does not intend to avoid or prevent this suffering, “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.” (Jn 12:24,27) Instead, He did three things in response to the suffering that was inevitable in His life.

Firstly, He continued to open His heart to the Father in prayer no matter the pains or the results of His prayer. In His humanity, Jesus “offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who could save Him from death.” Though He was “heard because of His reverence,” (Heb 5:7) His Father did not save Him from death. He had more glorious plans for His beloved Son.

Secondly, He continued to listen so as to obey His Father. Because the Father continuously spoke to Him even in His suffering, Jesus, “Son though He was, learned obedience from what He suffered.” (Heb 5:8) He experienced in His being the cost of loving obedience in suffering.

Thirdly, He completely surrendered Himself and everything to the Father in the face of suffering. He prayed that the Father, and not Himself, be glorified at that moment, “Father, glorify your name.” (Jn 2:29)

The Father responded by assuring Him that He will continue glorifying Him, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again. (Jn 12:28) When the Father is glorified in Jesus, Jesus is strengthened to face and overcome the impending suffering, He is raised from the dead to heavenly glory, and He is made the main source of eternal life in our world, “He (Jesus) became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.”(Heb 5:9)

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter how hard we try and the resources at our disposal, there are suffering that we cannot prevent or avoid in our lives. And they do not mean that our prayers have not been answered. We just have to face them with this sense of our oneness with Jesus Christ and the accompanying call to be His fellow laborers. We just cannot separate our union with Christ from our mission to gather and bring souls to Him. This means that we willingly join Him in gathering souls to Himself by facing the inevitable sufferings of our lives just like He did and for the same purpose – the glory of the Father.

To gather souls with Christ, we must never stop praying to God, even if we have to do so “with loud cries and tears.” We must pray in tears for forgiveness for our sins and those of the whole world. We pray for light and grace to give witness to Jesus in our dark and hurting world. We pray in reparation for all the scandals tearing the Church apart today and for the conversion of the clergy and Church hierarchy who cannot tell the difference between divinely willed holy matrimony and debased sodomy. We pray for our loved ones who have lost their faith and have been swept away in the culture of death. We pray for the poor and forgotten souls in purgatory. We pray in tears for broken homes, abandoned vocations, aborted babies and their scarred mothers, etc. Our intimacy with Christ grows as we persevere in praying for all in need.  

To gather souls with Christ, we must never stop listening so as to obey God’s will and fulfill the legitimate needs of our brothers and sisters. God speaks to us even in our sufferings, calling us to deeper repentance and showing us how we too can obey Him and become channels of His glorious life for many souls. Like Mama Mary who “pondered everything in our heart,” we too can fulfill the will of God even in our darkest and painful moments if only we do not become fixated on our sufferings. In this way, we too can learn loving obedience through suffering. Nothing worsens our suffering as disobedient and obstinate hearts closed to God’s loving words.  

To gather souls with Christ, we must never stop surrendering all that we have and are to God. We should echo the prayer of Jesus in gethsemane, “Father, not my will, but yours be done.” God cannot manifest His glory in our lives as long as we are still trying to be in control of our lives and situations. Our surrender to Him allows God to be glorified in us and in our circumstances, filling us with His own life and making us channels of hope and life in our world.

Let us not be deceived: God must be glorified in us if we are going to hope for the eternal life of heaven. It is not enough to be united with Christ in baptism, receive Him in first Holy Communion, become a priest, religious, bishop, receive Eucharist often, etc. We must also allow Him to be glorified in us by gathering souls with Him in the same way that He did it.

We recall the promise of Jesus, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.”(Jn 12:26) Jesus desires that we all be with Him wherever He is. He wants us to be with Him now in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass. He wants us to be with Him in His suffering and in our suffering brothers and sisters. Finally, He also wants us all to be with Him in heaven. This is the desire that led Him to mount the Cross for us.

We sadly see many souls far away from Christ Jesus today and many more walking away from Him daily for many reasons. Do we share in this same desire of Christ for all of humanity? Do we desire to bring as many souls as possible to heaven with us? If this is our greatest desire, then we must not rest content with our oneness with Him. By His grace, let us also begin to gather souls to Him by facing the sufferings we cannot avoid or prevent in this life just like He did – with unceasing prayer, obedient listening and continuous surrender of everything to our loving Father.

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

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How and why we must respond to God’s saving grace today: A homily for the 4th Sunday of Lent, 2021.

4th Sunday of Lent, 2021. March 14, 2021.

2Chr 36:14-16,19-23; Eph 2:4-10; Jn 3:14-21

How and why we must respond to the God’s saving grace today  

Social media was abuzz a few days ago with the story of Milo Yiannopoulou. He was a self-acclaimed “gay” man, provocateur, and activist for many years. He declared that he was now an “ex-gay Catholic” who had abandoned the homosexual lifestyle for good, consecrated his life to St. Joseph, and was now choosing to live a chaste life by the grace of God. 

Understandably his comments drew varied reactions. Many people offered him prayers and encouragement in his journey of conversion. But many others mocked and dismissed him as someone seeking cheap publicity. Many depicted him as a constantly vacillating stunt man who could not be trusted in his action and motive. Many even questioned the authenticity of his conversion. Some commentators expressed their doubts that he could actually sustain his new hope to live a chaste life after wallowing in the wicked bondage of homosexuality for many years.

I find these latter negative reactions rather ironic for a culture that prided itself with being non-judgmental and unconditionally accepting of all peoples. It appears that being non-judgmental does not apply to judging the character and motive of someone who publicly rebukes and rejects a depraved lifestyle that is becoming more accepted in both the Church and in society.

How can we dare to judge the authenticity of divine grace working in the soul of a person undergoing conversion? Is it impossible for God to bring a soul to conversion despite the impure motives on the person’s part? Who are we to question the power of divine grace to sustain him in His journey of faith and conversion? Doesn’t our faith teach us that “the preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace?”(CCC 2001)

No matter the motive of Milo’s conversion or his past character, this story reminds us of two indispensable lessons that we must hold on to if we are going to live our Christian life with joy and hope.

The first lesson is that God wants to save His people from all forms of bondage and hopelessness. The truth is that God desires to save us more than we even desire to save ourselves. He would use Moses, initially a cowardly murderer, to save His people from the bondage of Egypt, lead them on the Exodus, and bring them to the threshold of the Promised Land. All God’s people remained unfaithful to Him, all of them “adding infidelity to infidelity.”(2Chr 36:14) After they suffered the exile to Babylon, God used Cyrus, the Pagan king of Persia, to set His people free and to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their destroyed temple. Thank God the Israelites were wise enough not to doubt or question the past characters or motives of the ones that God used to save them from bondage and give them hope!

God’s desire to save us is accompanied by His readiness to save us at any personal cost, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.”(Jn 3:16) On His own part, Christ Jesus also loved us so much that He did not only desire our salvation but He was ready to pay the price of offering Himself on the cross in sacrifice for our salvation, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.”(Jn 3:15) Indeed God’s love is a love that saves us at any price from all sin, bondages, and hopelessness.

This brings us to the second lesson: the grace of God that Christ won for us on the cross is more powerful that any sin or bondage that we find ourselves in, “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love He had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to live in Christ.” Ponder this: grace raises us from death! We are brought from spiritual death to the fullness of life not by our works or good motives but by the graces Christ merited for us on the cross, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.”(Eph 2:4,8)   

These two lessons show that our mere desire to be saved is not enough; we must also be willing to pay the price. But we cannot pay the price. Jesus Christ has done that already and we cannot pay for it or add to it. We can only respond to this divine love that constantly offers us saving grace. We can respond in these five ways.

Firstly, we must receive God’s merciful love and grace as a gift. This gift was merited for us by our Redeemer on the cross. Our trials, temptations, and sufferings must not make us lose the sense of gratitude we should have for the grace of God in our lives. We show our gratitude for this gift by constantly opening our hearts to this grace and responding to it at all cost.

Secondly, we must refuse to condemn ourselves. Remember, “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”(Jn 3:17) We render the sacrifice of Christ useless to us when we wallow in self-condemnation after receiving His saving love. We must not do the devil’s work for him because he is the “accuser who accuses the brethren day and night.”(Rev 12:10) We also must not let anyone condemn us because of our past failures. Neither should we accuse someone of a poor motive for conversion.  

Thirdly, we learn from our past sins and our experience of the mercy and grace of God. God’s grace demands that we examine ourselves so as to understand the pattern of our sinful choices. This will help us to resist sins in the future. We also learn to depend not on ourselves, but on His mercy and grace that that set us free and move us to begin again at each moment.  

Fourthly, we refuse to hide our sins in shame. Remember, “The light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.”(Jn 3:19) Trying to hide our sins only give them the secrecy that they need to grow and spread till they quench all our hope and freedom. We must face them squarely in the light of God’s saving love if we are going to overcome them.

Fifthly, we continue to walk away from darkness towards the light every moment of our lives. The darkness will not clear away on its own.The darkness will fade only when we draw closer and closer to Jesus Christ because He is that light that “shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.”(Jn 1:5) We can “live the truth”(Jn 3:21) only by drawing closer to Christ, the light of the world.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, our secular cultures are bent on eclipsing the saving power of God’s grace today. They give us the impression that we are hopeless slaves of sin. They tell us that we are condemned to live as slaves of our basest sexual urges which we must gratify even in the most unnatural of ways as in the case of homosexual relationships. We will believe those devilish lies only when we lose our faith in God’s saving love and the power of His grace.

Let us spend time today looking at a crucifix with love. The first thing that we see is the disastrous consequences of our sins. They caused the pain, suffering, and death of the God-man. No matter the many convenient and sanitized names we give to sin today, or our denial of its existence, or the ways we try to justify or normalize them, our sins have grave disastrous consequences. If our sins can kill the God-man, how can they be harmless to us?

The second thing that we see in the crucifix is the saving love of God that pursues us to forgive and save us at any cost. We see the love of the Good Shepherd who “leaves the ninety-nine in search of the lost sheep.”(Mt 18:12) People may make us doubt the power and working of this grace in our lives but we know that this grace is present in us and it has power over any sin or bondage.

Our Eucharist is a re-presentation of Calvary where divine love offers us this grace and mercy that we can never pay for. If we want to be saved, we cannot just desire it; we must also receive these gifts and respond to it now even if our motives are not pure now. Freedom and hope are ours as we continuously respond to this grace. 

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

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Fully engaged in the battle against human respect: A homily for the 3rd Sunday of Lent, 2021.

3rd Sunday of Lent. March 7, 2021.

Ex 20:1-17; 1Cor 1:22-25; Jn 2:13-25

Fully engaged in the battle against human respect    

I remember the first thought that crossed my mind after I decided to go to the seminary and begin my religious and priestly formation. It was not the huge sacrifices involved or the changes that I had to make in my life. It was not the demands of a vowed life of chastity, obedience, and poverty too.

I must confess that I first thought about what others would think about my decision for this vocation. Would they approve or reject me, praise or mock me, support or dissuade me? I realized then that I had to face and overcome the formidable challenge of human respect first if I was going to embrace my vocation. This same battle continues today.

As social beings, we feel a sense of accountability to each other. Our best inspirations are usually accompanied by that inner voice, “What would others say or think about this or that?” But we are lacking in inner freedom if human respect is the first and only thing that moves or stops us from doing the good thing. A slavish submission to human respect shows an immature freedom on our part.

Jesus came to the Jerusalem temple where He was presented as a baby and where He had attended the Passover feast several times before. He saw that people in the temple where doing everything but worshipping His Father as they should, “He found in the temple those who sold oxen, sheep and doves, as well as the money changers seated there.”(Jn 2:14)

What would He do? To respond to this scandalous behavior in the temple and still be on the safe side, He could call for a synod on appropriate publish worship. He also could form a committee of disciples to study the situation and give recommendations for a future pastoral letter. But is that what love for the Father demanded of Him at that very moment?

As God, He knew very well what they would do and say if He cleaned out the temple with a whip. He knew that they would later accuse Him falsely based on His words and actions, “This man said, ‘I can destroy the temple of God and within three days rebuild it.’”(Mt 26:61) He knew that they would use it to taunt and revile Him during His agony on the cross in these words, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days.”(Mk 15:29)

Knowing fully well that His actions would cost Him pain and death, He still chose to do what love for the Father demanded at that very moment and cleanse the temple. In His words, “Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will also do.”(Jn 5:19) He cleansed the temple for His Father’s sake, “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”(Jn 2:16) This action shows us that Jesus is perfectly free and He acts in freedom, always doing the good that love of the Father demands. 

Unless we too are free, and also acting and growing in freedom, human respect will overcome us and quench the good inspirations that we receive from God. We must never underestimate the power of human respect to render divine inspiration useless and dead in us.

How can we grow in this freedom? We can grow in freedom only by accepting the freedom that God offers to us and then striving to grow in freedom by our free choices. Freedom is thus both a gift from God and a huge responsibility on our part.

God set His people free from bondage of Egypt first before giving them the Commandments, “I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall have no other gods besides me.”(Ex 20:2-3) Having been set free, the Israelites were to use this freedom to act and grow in freedom by their fidelity to all God’s commandments. 

In and through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, God has set us free from the dominion of sin, selfishness, and that self-preservation that hopelessly succumbs to human respect. We participate in His Spirit and are now in Christ, the new indestructible Temple of God, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”(Jn 2:19) This same Spirit moves us to greater freedom by continuously inspiring us to do the good, true, and beautiful things for God, beginning with keeping God’s commandments. In Christ, the only one who “understood human nature well,”(Jn 2:25) we can overcome human respect because we are free and graced by His Spirit to act and mature in that freedom.  

There are so many painful examples of this slavery to human respect today. The clergy fail to teach and affirm the ageless Christian faith and morals because they are afraid of being labelled rigid or homophobes. We pretend we do not see the evil that is destroying our loved ones because we do not want to be called judgmental. We remain silent in the face of scandals because we are afraid of being called bigots. We give into the many forms of depraved sexuality of our times because we do not want to be ostracized or called prudes. Many priestly and religious vocations are abandoned or not accepted at all because we are more comfortable to be conformists and not radical disciples of Christ.

Evil triumphs and spreads in our lives, Church, and world today because we are overcome by human respect. We do not seriously think, “What does God see?” because we are preoccupied with asking, “What would people say or think?” Our sins of omission out of human respect only multiply and yield numerous grave sins of commission because we are stifling that inner freedom needed to do the good that love of God and neighbor demands of us.

It is not too late to begin today to battle human respect by cultivating inner freedom through loving obedience to God’s commands. We will always be social beings bugged with thoughts of human respect. But we are also children of God in Jesus Christ now, united with Him and dwelling in Him as His Temple. Thus, human respect cannot and should not dominate us in our actions and motives. We can still embrace the freedom that Christ merited for us and also obey Him in freedom, doing the good that love demands no matter what others may think or say.

Jesus Christ, whom we encounter in our Eucharist, also warned us gravely about succumbing to human respect, “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when He comes in His glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”(Lk 9:26) In short, our eternal salvation depends on how we confront and overcome human respect as we obey God’s words and commandments in love.

Christ who dwells in us will always inspire us to do great things for His glory and for the salvation of souls. His grace will surely sustain us and He will reward us abundantly now and in the life to come. If His constant inspiration and grace is not going to be received in vain, then we must begin now to grow in that inner freedom that alone can overcome all human respect.

Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!  

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Let God purify our faith this Lent: A homily for the 2nd Sunday of Lent, 2021

2nd Sunday of Lent. February 28, 2021

Gen 22:1-2, 9, 10-13, 15-18; Rom 8:31-34; Mk 9:2-10

Let God purify our faith this Lent

I remember the Act of Faith that we memorized in our Catechism class. It began by professing faith in the Triune God and the Incarnation of the Word, and then it ended with this statement:

“I believe these truths and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because you have revealed them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived.”

This last statement indicates that the motive for our faith must be constantly clarified and purified i.e., why we believe what we believe. We do not believe because we understand God’s words completely or because of what we can get by believing. We do not believe because it is easy, convenient, favorable to our taste or fashionable for our times. We believe and act on God’s words because the God who gratuitously reveals truth to us “can neither deceive nor be deceived.” This is the true and matured motive for Christian faith.   

Let us reflect on the faith of Abraham, our father in faith. Imagine his shock and dilemma when God asked him to take his only son, Isaac, and offer him as a burnt sacrifice him on Mount Moriah. He surely did not understand then why God was giving this command. Isaac was not just his only son, the son that he had longed for all those years. Isaac was also the son God promised him. To lose his only son would be to lose everything he had and all that God had promised him.

He understood why God commanded him to do such a thing only after he had obeyed God’s word in faith to the very end. God fully revealed His plan at the very last moment when Abraham was about to slaughter his only son, “I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars in the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies.”(Gen 22:17)

Imagine now the great gladness that filled the heart of Abraham knowing that God was going to bless him by making him the father of numerous victorious descendants. All these because he obeyed God’s command in faith, step by step to the very end, despite his heavy heart.

Abraham’s story shows us that the more that we obey God in faith, the more we actually begin to understand God’s ways in our lives and allow Him to make us truly glad. This gladness is ours because we see that God will never deceive us in His words or promises to us.

Jesus took the three disciples “and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.”(Mk 9:2) They obviously did not know why Jesus was taking them away from the other disciples. They did not know then why they were being led up a high mountain. But they followed Him with a weak and frightened faith, step by step, all the way to the top of the mountain where Jesus “was transfigured before them.”

They understood why only at the summit of the mountain. In the light of the transfigured Christ, they realized that Jesus had brought them to this mountain top to show them a glimpse of the glory that He had hidden under His human nature. He brought them there to allow them hear the Father’s voice directly. He brought them there to strengthen them to face the scandal of the cross in Jerusalem. Lastly, He brought them there to instill in them a gladness in being in His company that would overcome any fear of suffering, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here.”

Everything that we do in the Lenten season – praying, fasting, giving alms – is to deepen and renew the faith of our baptism. Ours cannot just be a faith that only begs things from God. Our faith must mature to the point of obedience to God’s words to us till the very end, no matter the consequences, costs, results, sacrifices or inconveniences involved. We can reach this maturity in faith only when we allow God to purify our motive for believing in His word. 

The psalmist said, “I believed, even when I said, ‘I am deeply afflicted.’ Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His faithful ones.’” What is precious to God is surely not our natural death. The thing that delights God is our faithfulness to Him and His words always, even in the face of death. Our afflictions in life cannot quench our faith in God and His words to us if only our faith is being constantly purified.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we may sometimes feel like we do not understand what God is doing in our lives, our families, our Church and world today. Things seem to be getting out of control and we seem to be losing everything – peace, health, hope, success, strength, relationships, joy, hope, and even our souls. In the face of many of the things that we cannot understand, we repeatedly ask, “Why? Why God?” We fail to realize that these are the moments when God invites us to clarify our motive for believing in Him and then allow Him to purify these motives by His “truth and grace.”(Jn 1:17)

Let our response be rooted in the faith in what God has done for us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We are confident because, “He who did not spare His own Son but handed Him over for us all, how will He not also give us everything else along with Him?”(Rom 8:32) God will not give us all that we want; but in Christ Jesus, God will surely give us all that we need to obey His words in faith, step by step, to the very end and enter His kingdom of eternal gladness.

At His transfiguration, the Father declared, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” This means that Jesus is constantly speaking to us “words of eternal life.”(Jn 6:68) St. Paul also reminds us that “He is at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us.”(Rom 8:34) He is praying for us to have the matured faith of His Mother, Mary, who was blessed because she “heard the word of God and acted on it.”(Lk 11:28) He also wants us to share in her God-given gladness too, “He who is mighty has done great things for me.”(Lk 1:49)

Our Eucharist is an encounter with the Transfigured Christ who alone can purify the motive for our faith in Him. He is delighted by our faith in Him in the Eucharist; but He will never allow us to have a poorly motivated faith in Him and His words. We may never understand His mysterious plans in our lives. But we know that He who revealed to the disciples a glimpse of His eternal glory will surely provide for us the pure faith that we need to walk in fidelity to His truths till the very end.

It is only by obeying Him in this pure faith, step by step, till the very end in the life to come, that we will understand His ways completely and enjoy that eternal gladness expressed by these words, “Lord, it is indeed good that we are here!!!”  

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

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Dealing with the pressure of temptations: A homily for the 1st Sunday of Lent, 2021

1st Sunday of Lent. February 21, 2021.

Gen 9:8-15; 1Pt 3:18-22; Mk 1:12-15

Dealing with the pressure of temptations

I was thinking about buying a particular book in a bookstore some months ago. Even though I doubted it was really necessary to buy it, I felt an interior impulse to just pay for it there and then. I decided to leave it and think about buying it for some time. I returned a few weeks later and looked through the same book a second time. This time I did not feel the initial pressure I had felt to buy it as I had before. It no longer seemed necessary to buy it and I ended up not buying it. I just avoided getting one more book that is good only for re-gifting next Christmas!

I learned something about temptations from this experience. In our temptations, we are pressured by the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh to act immediately to meet what we consider our pressing needs. We are pressured to act so that we do not “miss out” on some advantage or benefit, even if we cannot exactly describe what exactly we are missing out on. If only we waited before acting, we will surely value things in these temptations differently.

St. Ignatius described this pressure in temptations when he said this about the moments of spiritual desolation when our faith, hope and love seems to fade, “For just as in consolation the good spirit guides and counsels us, so in desolation the evil spirit guides and counsels. Following his counsels, we can never find the way to a right decision.” (Spiritual Exercises, #318) In short, the devil acts as our “spiritual director” in those moments of temptation, pressuring us to just act to meet our exaggerated and imaginary needs no matter the consequences. We will surely regret when we cave into his pressures.

What then are we to do in the face of those nagging temptations that pressure us to act immediately?  We can start by choosing to do the will of God at the present moment while we postpone our thinking about the temptation. We can say, “Today, I want to do the will of God for me. Tomorrow I can think about this temptation.” We can constantly and consistently postpone thinking about the temptation by repeatedly saying day after day, “Tomorrow I can think about it. For now, I want to do the will of God.” We must say this daily, at the moment of each temptation, because our past successes in overcoming these temptations do not guarantee our future successes.

When we constantly postpone actually thinking about the temptation no matter the pressure to succumb to it, we are not only acting with patience in the face of the temptation but we are also giving God a chance to act and deliver us from the power of this temptation. Why are we so certain that God will surely act in our temptations? Because we are in a covenant relationship with Him and God never forgets His covenant with us even if we forget it and choose to offend Him through sin.  

God was faithful to His covenant that He established with the Israelites through Noah, “I will establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.” He unceasingly recalls this covenant and gives a visible sign of His fidelity, “I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of covenant between me and the earth.” (Gen 9:11,13)

In Jesus Christ, God’s covenant with His people is brought to its perfect fulfillment, making us God’s children in His kingdom. Jesus Himself faced temptations in the desert for forty days with patience, “He remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.” Satan pressured Him to turn stones to bread, jump down from the temple and worship him. Jesus neither fled from the “wild beasts” in the desert nor yield to the tempter; but He resisted till His Father acted and sent Him ministering angels, “He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to Him.”(Mk 1:13)

In Jesus Christ, we have assurance as God’s children that God will surely act and deliver us in our temptations and provide for us the true goods that alone satisfy us. He will surely act in our temptations now because “Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that He might lead us to God.” How can God abandon us to the tempter now that “we have been saved through baptism?”(1Pt 3:18,21) On the contrary, “God is faithful and will not allow let us to be tried beyond our strength; but with the trial He will also provide a way out; so that we may be able to bear it.”(1Cor 10:13) He only asks us to face the pressure of temptations with that patience born of that certainty that He will surely act and deliver us. 

Jesus proclaimed, “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.” After vanquishing the tempter in the desert, He triumphantly invites us to His kingdom where we can participate in His bold confrontation with the powers of darkness while patiently waiting for the Father to act. The Father who did not fail to raise His Son Jesus from the dead will surely not fail to raise us from the throes of our temptations.  

We are all facing today the pressures of temptations in many ways today. This pressure can feel unbearable sometimes and we feel like we just cannot bear it any more. We can even feel like we are “missing out” on something that we cannot describe. Contrary to the message that the devil, our sinful world and nature send us, we do not have to cave into these tempting pressures. As children of God’s kingdom, united to Jesus Christ, our Eucharistic king, we can resist this pressure. We can always say in the face of these and all temptations, “Today, I will do the will of God…Tomorrow I can think of this temptation.” This is the only way that we too can be patient and give God a chance to act in our lives and save us from our temptations.

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

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What are we learning about sin today from leprosy?

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time. February 14, 2021.

Lv 13:1-2,44-46; 1Cor 10:31-11:11; Mk 1:40-45

What are we learning about sin today from leprosy?  

The Levitical priests had the serious obligation to take action immediately to diagnose and to dismiss from the community anyone who had the slightest indication of leprosy, “If someone has on his skin a scab or pustule or blotch with appears to be the sore of leprosy, he shall be brought to Aaron, the priest, or to one of the priests among his descendants. If the man is leprous and unclean, the priest shall declare him unclean by reason of the sore on his head.” The priests did not take any chances at all; the leprous one was “to dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.” (Lev 13:2,44,46)

Why this immediate action of dismissing one from the community because of what only appears to be the sign of leprosy? Many of us may even condemn such an action today as being too judgmental, pastorally insensitive, intolerant, rigid, unmerciful, bigoted.

But the priests take this drastic action primarily because of the nature of leprosy and its impact on the person and the community. Leprosy starts little and spreads fast, disfiguring the person and rendering him ritually unclean and unable to be part of the worshipping community. Leprosy is also a very contagious disease, spreading fast from one person to others at the slightest contact. In addition, the priests dismissed them from community because the priests were completely unable to cure the disease. They could only diagnose its presence before dismissing the person from community, and then attest that it had been cured before re-admitting the healed person to the community.

In Mk 1:40-45, Jesus, the Eternal High Priest, did something unthinkable in His time by touching the leper, “Moved with pity, He stretched out His hand, touched Him.” Jesus acts immediately too in the face of leprosy because leprosy had disfigured the man, and it had separated him from his family and community. Only the words and touch of Jesus could heal the leper and introduce him to the community, “The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.”

Unlike the Levitical priests who could only diagnose and dismiss the leper, Jesus acts to heal the leper and reunite him to the community for the sake of communal worship, “He said to him, ‘See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed, that will be proof for them.’” The man’s physical healing was to allow him to enter into communal worship.

Jesus’ immediate response, His touching the leper and saying to him, “I do will it. Be made clean,” is Jesus’ immediate response to leprosy and to the greatest evil, the evil of sin. More than leprosy, sin starts little and spreads fast, disfiguring the image of God in us. What begins as sin in the thought, leads to sinful words, actions and omissions; these in turn lead to sinful habits and other graver sinful actions. Sin also spreads in community, dividing and weakening the community of the Church. Jesus alone can conquer and dispel sin and only His healing brings us back into the community of the Church, His mystical body.

Since Jesus acts immediately in the face of our sins, why don’t we too act immediately like the leper and seek for the healing touch of Christ? Why do we dally around with sin and foolishly pretend that we can manage sin on our own and keep it from disfiguring us, spreading to all parts of our lives and wounding all our relationships? We even naively think that we can predict beforehand all the consequences of our sinful choices. Trying to hide our sins, “our bones waste away and we groan all day long.” But when we acknowledge our sins humbly, “the Lord takes away the guilt of our sins.” (Ps 32:3,5)

Why do we keep silent while sin spreads in the Church through scandals? The seed of sin is planted as dissident and heretical clergy are allowed to distort Church teachings and wound morals. This seed necessarily germinates into the many sexual abuses in the Church, the wicked cover-up and the victimization of the victims of the abuses. The seed comes to full maturity in numerous financial scandals. Recent revelations on abuse allegations attest to how expensive it is to maintain a sinful lifestyle, cover up abuses, and settle lawsuits against abusive clergy. But even as sin spreads, divides and weakens the Church, we adamantly mutter a “Who am I to judge?” and then focus our attention on the environment!

One thing that the Covid-19 virus has shown us is that we can act immediately when it comes to our physical health but we delay when it comes to our spiritual health and those of others. We do not hesitate to wear face masks and shields, observe social distance, wash our hands compulsively, observe draconian lock-down regulations, etc. But we do not care about the scandalous effect of handing out Holy Communion to politicians who are living in mortal sin and who support abortion. Out of cowardice or laziness, we put off our battle with sin in our lives and in the Church and futilely hope that we can still somehow create a common brotherhood.

We must remember that physical health is indeed a necessary good; but it is not an absolute good in itself. In the words of the Catechism, “If morality requires respect for the life of the body, it does not make it an absolute value.”(CCC 2288) Jesus on the cross laid down His physical life for the sake of our spiritual life to impress on us the truth that physical health is given to us by God for the sake of nurturing our spiritual life and those of others.

It is ironic that the same Church that has been silent and tolerant in the face of all the scandalous actions of her children has now become vocal in the campaign to have universal Covid-19 vaccination for all people. Do we even care that most vaccines are made from aborted fetuses? We seem to have forgotten that what truly wounds the Church, divides her unity and weakens her power to unite souls to Christ is not a virus but unrepented sin in her members.

St. Paul reminds us, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Avoid giving offense to anyone.” Doing all things for the greater glory of God is inseparable from acting so as to strengthen the faith of others and not offending their faith. In all things, we also need to ask ourselves, “How would this my action or inaction affect the faith of others?” When we seek our selfish purpose alone, clearly scandalizing and offending the faith and morals of others, we wound ourselves and we weaken and divide the Church too.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus still wants to act now in the face of sin, to touch and heal us, not because we deserve it, but simply because He is “always moved by pity.” He still says to each of us, “I do will it. Be made clean.” He fulfills this promise to heal us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation where He also introduces us ever deeper into the mystery of the communion of His own mystical body for the sake of the perfect worship of God achieved through the Eucharist.

Why should we too act now in the face of our personal and communal sins and allow Him to touch and heal us? We must act now and always because sin spreads fast, divides and weakens the community of the Church, and only Christ can deliver us from our sins.

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

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Prayerfully connecting with the divine purpose

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time. February 7, 2021.

Job 7:1-4,6-7; 1Cor 9:16-19,22-23; Mk 1:29-39

Prayerfully connecting with the divine purpose

“Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.”

A large billboard screen caught my attention while I was in Metro Manila traffic some weeks ago. It was a picture of our Lady of Guadalupe with these words written beneath it, “Life is much better when you pray the Holy Rosary.”

I felt consoled and I knew from experience that this statement was true. But I found myself asking why this statement was true. It is not true because we get everything that we ask for when we pray the Rosary. It is also not true because we have no more struggles, trials, failures, or temptations when we pray the Rosary.

But it is true because when we pray the Rosary, or any other prayer, with the right disposition, we do not only connect with God but we also grasp the divine purpose in every moment of our lives. We may not know the entire purpose of God at a given moment but we know enough to take the next step in faith and let the mysterious plan of God to unfold. Life truly becomes better when we live our lives a step at a time and by the grace of God according to God’s purpose.

The book of Job shows Job as a good, innocent, and faithful man who suddenly lost everything that he had. He lost his sons, daughters, property and he contacted a terrible skin disease. His three friends could not help him understand the misfortune and disaster that had befallen him. Because of this injustice in his life, he lost hope and no longer saw any meaning or purpose in life.

The lamentation of Job mirrors what we would say when we too faced trials and difficulties we could not explain, “So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights are assigned to me…I am filled with restlessness until the dawn…My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope. I shall never see happiness again.” (Job 7:3,4,6-7)

Job did not grasp then that God’s mysterious and beautiful purpose in his suffering was to prepare him to receive abundant blessings from God. Listen to how Job’s life ended, “And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before…And the Lord blessed the later days of Job more than his beginnings.” (Job 42:10,12)

God had a purpose of increased blessings for Job but he could not see this purpose in the time of his suffering. He experienced the immense blessings of God only when he took his eyes away from his sufferings and prayed for his friends as God had instructed him. His life became much better as he prayed and acted according to the divine purpose.

The Psalmist tells us, “The Lord heals the brokenhearted, and binds up all their wounds.” This is God’s unchanging purpose for us. But He fulfills this purpose in a very mysterious way, “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; to His wisdom there is not limit.”(Ps 147:3,5) We can never fathom the wisdom behind His mysterious and beautiful purpose for us in the things that we experience in life. We must connect with Him through prayer first so that we can discern that purpose, live accordingly, and so enter into that better life that He longs to give to us.

In Jesus Christ, God is offering us constant connection and loving contact with Him, “Through Christ we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.”(Rom 5:2) Jesus Christ freely enters into our pains to heal us and bring meaning to our sufferings just as He freely entered the house of Simon’s mother in law to touch and to heal her and prepare her for service, “He approached, grasped her by the hand and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.” Because He is so close to us now, we too can connect with Him anytime in prayer and bring to Him all our needs and all who are in need of His healing and liberating touch, “They brought to Him all who were ill or possessed by demons.”(Mk 1:29,32)

He makes life better for all who approach Him with the right disposition, “He cured many who were sick with various diseases and He drove out many demons.” He can do this because, through prayer, He remains in contact with His Father and the divine purpose at all times. When Simon pressed Him to remain in the place of success and fame, Jesus chose to move on so as to live in accord to the Father’s purpose, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.”(Mk 1:34,39) He always lived like this, seeing the purpose of His Father in all things, even during the climax of His Passion and death, “Shall I not drink the chalice that my Father has given me?”(Jn 18:11) He never lost the sense of the beauty of His earthly life, even if the shadow of the cross never lifted from His view.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus Christ enters into our lives to heal and to liberate us so that we too can live according to the Father’s purpose in each moments of our lives. There is a mysterious and beautiful purpose in all things that God wills and permits in our lives. There is divine purpose in our difficult relationships with loved ones, our ongoing struggles with sinful addictions, our pains and sufferings. There is a divine purpose in this Covid-19 pandemic and all the evils that we experience from it. There is also surely a divine purpose in the many painful scandals in the Church.

We can grasp this divine purpose in everything only when we begin to pray like Jesus. Like Jesus who gave up some hours of sleep at dawn so as to spend time with His Father in solitude, we too must be willing to give up something so as to connect deeply with God in prayer. We must be willing to give up certain comforts and securities, feelings of shame and unworthiness, hurt feelings, favorite pastimes and entertainments, the many distractions that keep us from facing reality, our sources of consolation that never cease disappointing us, etc.

Like Jesus, we too must be willing to go beyond praying only because we want to get something from God. We must begin to pray because we want to fulfill the divine purpose in our lives no matter the darkness that we are going through. We refuse to be driven by the desire to meet the expectations of all people but to fulfill the purpose for which we are created by God and for which we are gifted by God today.

When we begin to pray like Jesus and never cease to do so, we will surely connect with Him and the divine purpose. When we live our lives step by step in accordance with this divine purpose, life would surely be better for us.

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

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Going beyond a demonic obedience: A homily for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2021.

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time. January 31, 2021

Dt 18:15-20; 1Cor 7:32-35; Mk 1:21-28

Going beyond a demonic obedience

The Israelites expressed their fear of hearing the voice of God directly, “Let us not again hear the voice of the Lord, our God, nor see this great fire any more lest we die.” God agrees and offers them an intermediary just like Moses, “A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kin; to him you shall listen.”(Deut 18:15,16)

This intermediary is of course Jesus Christ, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”(1Tim 2:5) We know and believe that God unites us to Himself as His beloved children in and through Jesus Christ and speaks to us through Him. But one thing that we usually overlook is that, in and through Jesus Christ, we too can obey the Father out of love just like Jesus did. It is in Jesus alone that we grasp and gain access to the love behind the words of the Father to us.

To understand why this is last point about the mediation of Christ is important, let us reflect on Jesus’ encounter with the demoniac in the first chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel. Jesus spoke powerful words that stunned His audience, “The people were astonished because He taught them as one having authority and not as their scribes.”

His words also forced the demons in the congregation to manifest themselves. These demons knew Him, His holiness, and His power, “I know who you are – the Holy One of God.” But they did not and could not grasp the divine love that Jesus made present, a love that animates all His words and actions. They asked Him, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” Seeing Him only as one who had come to destroy them, they obeyed Him only because they were forced and compelled to do so. Demonic obedience is only out of force and it can never be motivated by love for God.  

In Jesus Christ we are not only brought into a loving relationship with God; but we are also loved and equipped to listen to Him and to obey Him out of love. He has not come to destroy us in any way but to reveal to us the love of the Father that sets us free and leads us to the abundant life in the Father, “I came that they may have life and to have it abundantly.”(Jn 10:10) This is the truth that Satan and his demons will try to take away from our minds and hearts at all cost.

The path to disobeying God begins with settling for an obedience out of force. Such forced obedience does not make us generous in anything; it only makes us mediocre and lazy. It is lifeless, joyless, and unfulfilling. It places the focus on us and our actions on not on the grace of God. It does not lead to inner freedom. It eventually ends in discouragement and complete abandonment of the spiritual life. This is why the demons tempt us to participate in their own demonic obedience as a first step to bring us to complete disobedience of God and His commandments.

This demonic obedience out of force is also deadly for us Christians because it rejects and refuses the goodness of God to us. When we reject or refuse this divine goodness, we also reject and refuse God’s power, wisdom, and mercy in our lives. Rejecting one of God’s attributes is to reject all of them altogether. This is why demonic obedience surely leaves us hopeless, afraid, deceived, and regretful.

My dear brothers and sisters, we have demons speaking to us today directly and indirectly through people who are knowingly or unknowingly doing the devil’s bidding. They are tempting us to abandon that loving obedience that should characterize us as God’s beloved children and settle for one that is grounded in force and compulsion.

How can we recognize the voice of such temptations in our world today? We hear the voice of such demons whenever there is a denial of the goodness of God towards us in His words or actions. Demons are speaking to us whenever we are told that we should think of some temporal benefit from sinning and disobeying God’s laws. We are listening to demons when we are told that we just cannot know what God wills for us and we cannot fulfill this divine will even if we know it. We are hearing the voice of such demons when we hear statements that claim the words of God, His commands, and His will for us are harmful for us. We are hearing the voice of demons when they leave us unnecessarily confused and bewildered about the exact meaning and implications of God’s clear words to us.

We can go beyond this demonic obedience by praying for and cultivating a truly discerning heart. This is a heart that is first of all grounded in God’s love for it. It is grateful to God for all things, especially for God revealing Himself to us in and through His Son, Jesus Christ. It is a heart that holds on tenaciously to God’s words with deep gratitude and appreciation like St. Peter did, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.”(Jn 6:68)

Secondly, such a heart desires to please God alone in all things and events. It is a heart that, completely focused on Christ, is also “anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord.” (1Cor 7:32) Such a heart is open to the words of Christ and ready to participate in His own loving obedience. It is also a heart that readily and vehemently rejects the words of demons that tempt it to embrace a forced obedience.

Jesus Christ, our only Mediator, is present in the Eucharist to give us life through His loving obedience and not to destroy us in any way. The Eucharist, Calvary on our altars, is the sacrament where we see the fullest expression of Christ’s wisdom, power and love for us. He wants to speak powerful words in our hearts and transform us completely by His power.

May Mama Mary form our hearts in the image of her Immaculate Heart so that we may go beyond that forced demonic obedience and become properly disposed for listening to God and obeying Him in love. Unless we go beyond demonic obedience out of force and compulsion, we just cannot grow in inner freedom, become generous, and have the joyful life that Jesus desires for each and every one of us through our free participation in His own loving obedience.  

Glory to Jesus!!! honor to Mary!!!

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