The Lord’s Discipline

John 16:20-23
Acts 18: 9-18 / Ps 47: 2-7

Amen, Amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.
(John 16:20)

Is your life now filled with sorrow?
Don’t dwell in anguish and complain;
Just be patient, for tomorrow
Joy and peace will be yours again.

“Amen, Amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. When a woman is in labor, she is in pain, because her hour has arrived. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the pain because of the joy of having brought a child into the world. So you also are in anguish now. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. On that day you will not question me about anything. Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name, He will give it to you.” (John 16: 20-23)

Reflection

Have you ever wondered how close you are to God, especially to your Savior, Jesus Christ? When were you closer to Him, was it in times of joy and merriment, or in times of trouble and suffering? I believe it is when we are desperately in need of help that we are closest to God, especially when we are begging for a miracle, as in the case of those who sought our Lord Jesus in the Gospel narratives. Because of their strong faith, they all became close to Jesus, and He lovingly granted their supplications. The Roman centurion was a non-believer, a Gentile, and yet he came to Jesus for help because he believed Jesus could heal his servant. “Say only the word, and my servant will be healed.” Jesus told His followers, “I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith” (Mt.8:8-10). Jairus, an official in the synagogue, believed that Jesus could heal his daughter, and so did a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for 12 years, who had faith that by merely touching the cloak of Jesus she would be healed (Mk.5:21-42); both of their prayers were granted. The Canaanite woman, another Gentile, who was at first rejected by Jesus and His apostles, boldly pleaded with the Lord to drive a demon from her daughter (by His mere words), saying, “Even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table.” Moved by her faith and humility, Jesus told her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish” (Mt.15:22-28).

Clearly, we can see that it is by our faith in His goodness and power that we are drawn closer to the Lord our God. And it is usually when we find ourselves in dire straits that we remember to call on a greater power as our source of last resort. Our troubles and problems in life may also be God’s way of bringing us to our moral senses. They may only be God’s way of disciplining us for our own good. Proverbs 3:11-12 says, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent His rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in.” The same wisdom we find in the letter to the Hebrews, which says, “My son, do not disdain the Lord’s discipline, or lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and punishes every son He acknowledges. Endure hardship as discipline; for what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined, in which all have shared, you are not sons but bastards… we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. Should we not submit all the more to the Father of spirits and live? Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb.12:5-11). These words should be enough to make us rejoice in spirit even in the midst of our suffering.

Dear God, we believe that ultimately, all the pains and troubles that we experience in this life will be for our own eternal benefit, because we trust You fully as a loving Father Who only wants the best for His children. Sustain our faith, Father, that we may overcome all the trials that we face in our life. Amen.

It’s Just a Little While

John 16: 16-20
Acts 18:1-8 / Psa 98

A little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me.
(John 16:16)

This life is but a passing time,
Endure the pains, the grief, the toil;
Have hope that in a little while
Our Lord will turn our tears to joy.

(Jesus said), “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” Some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.” Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so He said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” (John 16:16-20)

Reflection

The poor apostles must have been so confounded by all these mysterious things that they were hearing from the Lord – first, how they would be persecuted and even killed by people “who didn’t know the Father” (Jn.16:2-3); then about an Advocate or Counselor, the “Spirit of Truth” who would come after Him (16:13). And where was He going anyway? Weren’t they supposed to see the fulfillment of His mission as Israel’s Messiah when they entered Jerusalem? What did this disappearing and appearing again after a little while mean?

Of course we all know what Jesus meant. He was simply predicting His death and eventual resurrection. As He told them earlier, “I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you” (16:4). Indeed, when He came back from the grave they would remember His words, and then they would rejoice. “You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy” (16:20). Everything that Jesus told them would come back to them, and these would fortify their faith and embolden them for the mission of spreading the Gospel and building His Church on earth.

In four days’ time we go to the voting polls to choose the next leader of our country. After hearing and reading about all the negative things that political pundits, detractors and supporters alike have been hurling against this or that presidential candidate in the mass and social media, there is ample reason to doubt and be concerned about the future of our country and our children. Who can be sure about the sincerity of these political leaders, nor be assured that their promises of better days ahead will be fulfilled? The best thing for us to do is to pray to God for guidance that we are voting for the right leader, and then pray for him that he will abide by all the laws of God in the governance of His people. We are the only Christian nation in Asia; we are God’s flock. We must believe that He will put the right man to shepherd His own.

Our Lord’s simple message to us in this Gospel today is this: It may take some twists and turns and sacrifices before our aspirations are fulfilled, or our prayers may not be answered at all (the way we want it), but God wants us to trust Him, that no matter the trials and struggles, in the end it will work out for the best. After all, He knows far, far better than we do what is good for us, and developing our trust and patience is part of His “pruning” to make us grow and become strong and faithful Christians.

Teach us, o Lord, to be patient, to be trusting, and to leave everything to You. Amen.

God’s Word and the Spirit of Truth

John 16: 12-15
Acts 17: 15, 22 — 18: 1 / Ps 148: 1-2, 11-14

I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.
(John 16:12)

May the living Word live within,
That we may grow and bear much fruit;
And God’s will in our life be seen,
Revealed by His Spirit of Truth.

Jesus said, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will declare to you the things that are coming. He will bring glory to me because He will take from what is mine and declare it to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.” (John 16:12-15)

Reflection

Today’s Gospel passage leaves us to ponder deeply on the roles that the Second and Third Persons of the Trinity played and continue to play in our enlightenment and salvation. Jesus is the revelation of God the Father. He said, ”If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him” (Jn.14:7), and “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (Jn.14:11). But it would be the Holy Spirit who would come to deepen the apostles’ understanding of our Lord’s revelation. In the course of Church history, the power of the same Advocate would lead all the saints in their individual missions to spread the Christian faith all over the world. He continues to inspire us today.

It was the Holy Spirit Who inspired the writings of all the books in the Holy Bible, which the Magisterium of our Church had acknowledged as the Word of God, the “Living Word”, or simply, the Truth, because it was inspired by the Spirit of Truth. No one has ever found any mistake or falsehood in the Bible. It is totally trustworthy and reliable. It is the testament of God’s will and plan of salvation. We are all urged to read the Bible, and meditate on God’s Word as often as we can, because, with the Spirit’s guidance, it is where we come to know all about our Lord, Jesus Christ. His lessons in the Bible lead us to a deeper understanding of the Holy Spirit’s work. St. Paul wrote: “In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. . . . The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” (1Cor.2:10-12,14-16)

The Bible is rich with passages of life. Whenever we come across verses there that inspire us, let us memorize them so that they may live in our heart. Jesus said, “The Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you” (Jn.16:15). His ‘Living Word’ will protect us from danger, shield us from temptation, and transform us into a new creation of the Spirit. We will come to know more intimately the living God, and enjoy His gifts, like wisdom, patience, fortitude, love, and the beauty of life in the Spirit!

We praise and thank You, Father God, for the life of Jesus that we have found in the Bible, as inspired by Your Holy Spirit. His Word has transformed us; may the Holy Spirit sustain our faith all the days of our lives. Amen.

Knowing Our Salvation

John 14: 6-14
1Cor 15:1-8 / Psa 19

If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.
(John 14:7)

What great deed must be accomplished
That I may reach my life-long goal?
May this life not be extinguished
Until I’ve saved at least one soul.

Jesus said to Philip, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.’ Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does His works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.’ (John 14: 6-14)

Reflection

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” There is great debate on whether people who never came to know Jesus would be able to avail of His salvation. No one can be certain for sure, and they can only trust in God’s divine mercy. We, however, who have come to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior have the certain hope that we are on the right path to the Father’s kingdom. By being faithful to His teachings, which is the Truth, and which the Holy Spirit inspires us to share with others; and by following His example, making His ways our way of life, we have His assurance of entering our Heavenly inheritance.

Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” Jesus Christ is the revelation of God our Father — by His wondrous works, by His words, and by His promises fulfilled since the beginning of time. Having the slightest knowledge about our awesome Creator through our Savior Jesus can be our best possession in life. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength, or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth.” (Jer. 9:23-24). Jesus is the manifestation of God’s perfect love for mankind. Faith in Jesus therefore is the first step to knowledge of the Father and acquiring true wisdom.

Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.” After our Lord ascended to the Father in heaven, the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles on Pentecost. These “greater works” were indeed manifested right after when three thousand people who heard St. Peter speak were converted and baptized (Acts 2:41). As Jesus had predicted, His Good News was not only preached in Palestine but spread like wildfire to all corners of the world, even conquering the great Roman Empire. “Their voice goes out to all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Psa 19:4). We share in the great works of the apostles whenever we evangelize the marketplace.

Great works are waiting to be accomplished for all who believe in Jesus and are open to the prodding of the Holy Spirit. The greatest victory that we can accomplish for the Lord is to bring another soul other than our own to His great mercy. To this end may all of us who have come to believe in Him aspire.

Finally, Jesus promised: “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” Our Lord will grant us whatever is best for us, not necessarily what we think is best for us, for only God knows what we truly need, primarily the salvation of our soul. Pray to God in Jesus’ Name, full of faith in His loving mercy and kindness. “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6) He will grant what we pray for as long as it does not detract from, but fulfill His plan for our salvation.

Father God, may we continue to share with others what we have received from You, and never tire in striving to be like Your saints, winning souls for Your kingdom in Jesus’s Name. Amen.

The Joy of Witnessing

John 15: 26 -– 16: 4
Acts 16: 11-15 / Ps 149: 1-6, 9

You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.
(John 15:27)

It is our duty to testify
On behalf of our Lord Jesus Christ;
That for our sins He was crucified,
Witnessing’s just a small sacrifice.

Jesus said, ‘When the Advocate* comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth Who proceeds from the Father, He will testify on my behalf. 27You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. 16I have told you this so that you may not fall away. 2They will expel you from the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when those who kill you will think that they are offering worship to God. 3And they will do this because they have not known either the Father or me. 4I have told you this so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them. I did not say these thiings to you from the beginning, because I was with you.’ (John 15:26–-16:4)

Reflection

The Holy Spirit worked so powerfully in the two foremost apostles of Jesus that those who listened with an open heart were instantly converted. St. Peter’s speech after Pentecost led to the conversion in just one day of more than 3,000 people who listened to him. In the first reading, we read about a prominent woman named Lydia in the city of Philippi, a Roman colony in Macedonia (Acts 16:14), who was so moved by St. Paul’s testimony that she invited him and his companion to her home, and she and her whole household were baptized and became Christians.

One Saturday morning, members of our community and our guests sat in rapt attention in a breakfast meeting as a couple (both doctors of medicine) gave a moving testimony of their life. They shared about serving others through their God-given professions, their individual battles against various ailments (iincluding theirs and their children), and the hand of God in all the miraculous events that happened in their lives. An atmosphere of joy was palpable in that morning’s “spiritual encounter”, even as a recently widowed member stood up to thank the members in a long melodramatic tale of sorrow. Nevertheless, the spirit of joy that the couple engendered through their life sharing clearly set the tone “to serve with gladness” in the Christian Life Program seminar that followed in the afternoon. Not to mention the work of the Holy Spirit on the breakfast guests and five first-timers who attended, and on the “fence sitters” who have yet to prepare their own life testimony.

The breakfast sharing is a very effective form of evangelization that is peculiar in our community. It is in testifying to the goodness of our Lord and Savior that others come to a vicarious experience of the peace, joy and love that the Holy Spirit gives to believers. All of us who willingly submit to this mandate from our Lord Jesus, Who said, “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father” (Mt.10:32) know the feeling of that moment. It is in humbly baring our soul that the Holy Spirit can use us as His instruments of enlightenment. As our Lord further said, “You are the light of the world… your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt.5:14,16). May we all be witnesses for Jesus Christ. It is the least that we can do to show our love and gratitude to God for all the blessings that He has given us in this life, as well as for our eternal salvation.

You call us, Father God, to give witness to Your power of transforming our lives, and Your Spirit has inspired and emboldened us to proclaim Your Word in our assemblies. Open the minds and hearts of those to whom we are giving our testimony, so that the seed You plant may grow and bear fruits abundantly. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

The World’s Hatred

John 15:18-21
Acts 16:1-10 / Ps 100

…because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
(John 15:19)

How can the choice be hard to make,
Between life or death, wealth or grace?
Let us not make the grave mistake
To love this world and lose the race.

(Jesus said), “If the world hates you, know that it hated me first. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, `No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. And they will do all this to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.” (John 15: 18-21)

Reflection

These words of Jesus serve as a source of consolation whenever we feel depressed on account of not being able to have our way in this world. Sometimes, we find ourselves puzzled why many people whom we consider amoral, if not downright immoral are the ones who seem to be getting the best breaks in this world, while those whom we know are good and upright people are the ones who are constantly struggling, suffering, or losing.

The words of our Lord shatter our worldly standard—“No slave is greater than his master.” If our Lord Jesus could allow Himself to suffer so much insults and persecution in the hands of His tormentors for our sake, shouldn’t we be glad that in our own small way, we have been privileged to share in His example?

Only those who belong to the world are loved by the world, and enjoy the world’s pleasures and successes. We who do not belong to the world but belong to God may be undergoing some suffering now (be it physical or financial, but this is only for a little time. We have the hope and joy of eternal happiness as our reward for not conforming to the ways of this world. As Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew, 5:11: “Fortunate are you when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you because you are my followers. Be glad and rejoice, for a great reward awaits you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Coming home one evening from a meeting with friends, I experienced a debilitating sense of depression and anxiety over the present state of our country’s electoral affairs. The national elections were less than two weeks away, and it seemed to me as if the victory of evil against good was inevitable. (I thought, “How could anyone get away with murder?”) The following days made it even harder to get up from bed, knowing that most of my close friends, and even some closest relatives are on the other side of the political fence. It was only after reading a few passages in the Bible that I felt of our country the Lord’s reassurance: “Do not be conformed to this world” (Rom.12:2). The world is Satan’s domain, and power politics is his game. At every opportunity he is luring us into the false belief that our worldly concerns take precedence over everything else in our life. Even above our moral standards and spiritual goal. “But do not be led astray,” St. Paul says, “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1Cor. 15:33). Instead, let the Word of God guide us always in the proper conduct of our lives, and the Holy Spirit will shield us from the evils of this world. With this in mind, I have decided to leave the future of our country in God’s hand.

Loving Father, we thank You for the guidance and inspiration that we find in Your Word, the Bible. Grant us the grace to persevere in conforming ourselves to all the values taught by our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel, so that Your Spirit may always abide in us. Forgive us if sometimes we fall into the trap of desolation with the world’s multitude of ills and frustrations. Thank You for the hope and joy that your Word always provides in the midst of life’s anxieties. Amen.