The Plight of the Rich

Mark 10:17-27
Sir 17:19-24 / Psa 32:1-2,5-7

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.
(Mark 10:25)

What worth are all the world’s treasure
If in the end I lose my soul?
Strive for the prize beyond measure:
God’s kingdom, our eternal goal.

As Jesus was starting out on his way again, a man ran up, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’ ” The man said, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus looked straight at him with love and said, “You need only one thing. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” When the man heard this, his face fell, and he went away sad, because he was very rich. Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at His words, so Jesus went on to say, “My children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.” At this the disciples were completely amazed and asked one another, “Who, then, can be saved?” Jesus looked straight at them and answered, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:17-27)

Reflection

A few years ago, a young man we knew whose family’s estate must be worth billions of pesos committed suicide. “Why would anyone who has practically everything in life do such a tragic thing?” I asked a friend. He replied, “Mong, sometimes those who have everything are really the ones who have nothing.” How wise those words are. Having so much wealth can reduce the value of everything else, until there is nothing left worth appreciating, or being grateful for. In the end it might be one’s great wealth that will cause him to lose interest in seeking the most important pearl of great price: eternal life in God’s kingdom.

Jesus was not against wealth per se. What He was condemning was one’s attachment to it. Too much preoccupation with our possessions is a great distraction from what is most essential: our right relationship with God and neighbor. It is not money but our desire for it that is the root of evil. As Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and mammon” (Mt.6:24). One will inevitably displace the other. And the man who puts his trust in his money can never be happier than a much poorer man who puts his trust in God. “Sleep is sweet to the laboring man, whether he eats little or much, but the rich man’s abundance allows him no sleep” (Eccl.5:11).

There is an exception, however, for some very wealthy people who live happy and fulfilled lives. They are those who are not obsessed with their fortunes, but with the mission that their fortunes entail. Their obsession lies in being God’s stewards, knowing that they have a great responsibility to use their wealth for the benefit of many. Philanthropists find joy in giving because they see the good that their riches can do. Proverbs says, ”Honor the Lord with your wealth… then will your barns be filled with grain, with new wine your vats will overflow” (Prov.3:9-10). Depending on our outlook in life, wealth can either be a blessing or a curse. Out of His love for him, Jesus was offering that man a rare chance to gain His eternal blessing. But because of his love for his possessions, the man walked away, a lost soul. This must be why Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt.5:3). Like the message in the first reading says: “God holds a man’s almsgiving dear as a priceless signet ring; He cherishes a good deed like the apple of His eye. One day He will rise and reward them; He will place their prize on their heads” (Sir.17:17-18). In the end, it is “the poor in spirit” who are more fortunate than the rich.

May we never be presumptuous like the rich man to think that we can “inherit” Your kingdom, Lord God; instead, we pray daily for Your kingdom to come, and Your will be done in our life, so that we may grow in Your grace, and be free from all worldly attachments. Amen.

One Body in Christ

John 21: 20-25
Acts 28: 16-20, 30-31 / Ps 11: 4,5,7

This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.
(John 21:24)

Lord, there’s only one thing You require:
To be faithful in good times and in rough;
For lofty posts let me not aspire,
To serve You is privilege enough.

Peter turned and saw the disciple following whom Jesus loved, who had reclined close to his chest at the supper and had said, “Master, who is the one who will betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him, “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours?” Follow me!” So the word spread among the brethren that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, ““What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours?” This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be described, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (John 21: 20-25)

Reflection

It cannot be denied that St. John was the favorite apostle of Jesus. He was the only one who could recline close to the chest of Jesus, and to whom the Lord revealed who was going to betray Him. He was the only apostle who stayed with Jesus in Calvary, and to whom Jesus entrusted His mother Mary. St. Peter knew this, and wondered what role St. John would be undertaking, since he (Peter) was the one tasked by the Lord to “take care of My sheep.” So Jesus answered him, “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours?” (Jn.21:22)

On the part of St. John, his own words in this Gospel were a self-fulfilling prophecy, when he wrote: “So the word spread among the brothers that that disciple would not die” (he was talking about himself), because he was the only apostle who did not suffer martyrdom like the rest of his companions. He died at an old age, in exile in the island of Patmos, where it is believed he wrote his Gospel.

St. Peter had no cause to worry about God’s plan for St. John, because even if he was the apostle closest to Jesus’ heart, it was St. Peter who was destined to be the leader of the Twelve and head of the early Church. St. John knew his part, and was even subservient to St. Peter (Jn.20:3-8). He, however, would have a greater impact on the future Christian world, for he was commissioned by the Holy Spirit to write the ‘Gospel of Love’.

All of us who are called to serve have different roles to play in God’s plan of salvation. It is not the position or responsibility given to us that matters in the eyes of God, but our willingness and commitment to serve Him. As we say in the renewal, more important than our ability is our availability. Whether one is a leader in Christ’s organization or a follower, we are all equally important in His Mystical Body. As St. Paul explains, “No one must think of himself more highly than others, but with a sober mind consider each one according to the faith that God has apportioned. For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually, parts of one another” (Rom.12:3-5).

Heavenly Father, we praise and thank You for the gift of brotherhood, for being called to serve in a community sanctified in the Name of Jesus our Lord, and constantly empowered and guided by Your Holy Spirit. Preserve it Lord from intrigues and personal ambition, which are works of the evil one. Help us to persevere in our appointed tasks. Amen.

Tending God’s Sheep

John 21:15-19
Acts 25:13-21 / Ps 103

Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?
(John 21:15)

Have we led God’s sheep in meadows green?
Spread His Word for which we were called?
Let’s ask ourselves if we have been
The worthy shepherds of His fold.

After they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Then He said to him a second time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Look after my sheep.” The third time He said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus then said, “Feed my sheep! Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this signifying what kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then He said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:15-19)

Reflection

When Jesus asked His foremost apostle, Peter three times if he loved Him more than the other apostles, or more than other things that he was preoccupied with (like going back to his old job, fishing), the Lord was merely giving Peter the opportunity to cancel out the number of times that he had denied Jesus in the courtyard of Pilate by affirming his love for Him three times. It was also the Lord’s way of anointing Peter as the leader of His apostles and sealing his commitment to serve His Church.

Jesus emphasized Peter’s role as His head shepherd by telling him to “Feed my lambs” (Jn. 21:15), “Tend my sheep” (16), and “Feed my sheep” (17). Jesus always referred to Himself as the ‘Good Shepherd’, but now that He was going back to the Father, He was transferring the mantle of leadership to Peter.

As God’s shepherd, how well have I been feeding His ‘lambs’ – the members of our BCBP community? As their chapter head, I often wonder if I have been doing enough to encourage them to regularly attend our breakfasts, Teachings and Assemblies. I try to set the example by 100% attendance, and by actively inviting first-timers to our breakfast meetings. Every morning, I encourage them through the governance team to “feed” on God’s Word regularly for their spiritual sustenance. Still, I feel these are not enough. As leaders of His flock, do we ‘pasture God’s sheep in green meadows’, guarding them from predators (false teachings), meeting with them one-on-one? Have we been beacons of integrity to them? Do we try to be good examples to the flock in righteous living and humble service? Do we boldly proclaim the Word in our personal testimonies and encourage others to do the same? Are we prepared (biblically literate) enough to teach the doctrines of the Church? Do we encourage our brethren to share their time, skills or resources for the chapter’s missions?

The tasks of a ‘shepherd’ is never easy indeed. It is only because of love that they are never burdensome. Besides, if we believe in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and our brethren in the community have affirmed this mantle of leadership, then this yoke to serve as God’s shepherd is truly “light and easy”. Otherwise, can we give an honest answer when the Lord asks us, “Do you love me more than these?”

Bless all the shepherds of your flocks, Mighty God, so that we may wisely lead Your faithful ones to the green meadows of Your kingdom. Amen.

Prayer for Unity of All Believers

John 17: 20-26
Acts 22:30; 23:6-11 / Ps 16

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their word…
(John 17:20)

Lord Jesus, we pray for unity,
Bind us together in Your Word;
Let love reign in our community
That we may live in one accord.

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their word, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17: 20-26)

Reflection

The love of God is boundless and eternal. It is the only reason why God became man in Christ Jesus. And it is emphasized here in Jesus’ prayer to the Father, which He intended for all Christians who would become His followers throughout the generations, and who would abide by His teachings. The two other themes of His prayer is unity, and its common denominator — the belief that Jesus is the One sent by the Father, that He is the Christ, the Messiah and Redeemer. All who believe this are made members of His Mystical Body, and will one day share in His glory.

But Jesus’ prayer for His followers and for Christians of all generations was not only for their benefit alone, but to fulfill the will of the Father, which is the salvation of the whole world. As Jesus clearly stated, “My prayer is not for them alone… (but) also for those who will believe in me through their word…” (Jn.17:20) meaning, those who are still outside the Church, but whom His followers must evangelize with the Gospel.

Now that we have become disciples of Christ, are we effectively drawing others to His flock? Are we showing them the kind of love that binds us in our community of faith? Selfless, unconditional love is a powerful magnet that never fails to attract souls in search of meaning in their lives. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn.13:35) Many have been transformed or renewed in their faith when they joined communities like Couples for Christ, Bukas Loob sa Diyos, Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP), Loved Flock, etc. The reason they joined these communities was primarily because they were touched by the genuine caring and support that the members had shown for one another. They soon discovered that this was real love, borne out of a common abiding faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Father God, we join Your saints and angels in praying for unity in the Church, so that all Your children may be united in Your love, and those who are still in the world may also be touched by this unity and love, and encouraged to join Your flock. Help us, Lord to fulfill this as our mission. Amen.

Sanctified by His Word

John 17: 11-19
Acts 20:28-38 / Ps 68:29-30,33-36

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
(John 17:17)

On His cross is hope for glory,
Our protection is in His Name;
Let our witness tell the story
About the truth that we all claim.

Jesus prayed, “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.” (John 17:11b-19)

Reflection

In today’s Gospel, our Lord teaches us what and for whom we should pray. First of all, Jesus prayed asking God to protect His beloved apostles, the first pillars of His Church, and for their unity and strength. Aware of the devil’s devious plans to undo what He had set out to accomplish, Jesus prayed to the Father for their protection in the power of His Name. One of the most powerful prayers for protection that we have is Psalm 91. In this prayer, the holy Name of God is invoked three times: “If you live in the shelter of Elyon, and make your home in the shadow of Shaddai, you can say to Yahweh, ‘My Refuge, my Fortress, my God in Whom I trust.” And in this Psalm, God assures us, “I rescue all who cling to me, I protect whoever knows My Name.” (Psa.91:14) Let us pray for our loved ones, but pray for our church as well.

Then Jesus prayed that His followers may have my joy made complete in themselves. In the midst of the world’s hatred for Christians, it is the joy of the Holy Spirit that can counter it and sustain us in times of persecution and hardships. The world hates those who do not conform to its ways. The grafters and corrupters in government hate us when we post our “Be Honest” bills and posters; the vote-buyers scoff at volunteers who try to ensure clean and fair elections. The pragmatic and street-wise regard Christians as foolish and impractical, but we persevere in spreading Christ’s values in the marketplace, believing that in the end our ideals will be vindicated.

Finally, Jesus prayed for the sanctification of His apostles in His truth. Everything that Jesus taught was meant to keep us holy. Earlier, He said, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples; you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:32). Remaining in His word means meditating on the Holy Scriptures daily, so that we may be fortified and sanctified in His truth. Otherwise, as St. Paul warns in the first reading, “men will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them” (Acts 20:30). As Jesus’ followers, let us stand by and for the truth in all our ways, so that we may always be His light in the world.

Father God, by the power of Your Name, protect us always from the evil one; grant us the spirit of joy to serve even those who hate us, and the grace to discern the truth, which will sanctify us and make us Your light to others. As the psalmist wrote: “Those who sow in tears will reap with cries of joy.” (Psalm 126:5) Amen.

United in Jesus’ Name

John 17: 1-11
Acts 20:17-27 / Ps 68:10-11,20-21

Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one.
(John 17:11)

Live what we preach, God’s Word proclaim,
By words and deeds that testify
Our unity in Jesus’ Name,
By Whom our God we glorify.

Jesus looked up to heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that Your Son may glorify you. You have given Him power over all people that he might give eternal life to all those You have given him. For this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent. I have glorified You on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, give me, in your presence, the same glory I had with you before the world began. I have revealed you to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have kept Your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believe that you sent me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And I have been glorified in them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:1-11a)

Reflection

The sacrament of the Holy Eucharist was instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ when He shared His last supper with His apostles just before His passion and death on the cross in Calvary. This sacrament of the mass is the most important of all the seven sacraments not only because we receive the Body of Christ in its celebration, but because through it we are united with God and with one other. We especially feel this very strongly in our Brotherhood, (BCBP), with Jesus as our common Brother, and God as our common Father. As St. Paul said, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. (1Cor.12:12-13)

As we line up for Holy Communion and sing the song, “We Are One Body”, let us pray to the Father for that unity that our Church is still striving to achieve with other Christians. This moving song is actually a reminder of our brokenness, and what makes this divisiveness more tragic is because most of us have become complacent about it. We have come to accept this status quo, and perhaps because of this, the brokenness in our Church has led to other forms of division, like divorce and abortion.

Jesus knew the importance of unity in His flock, and specifically asked the Father to protect the unity of his followers and guard it against division. The primary goal of the enemy is division – to separate us from God. We cannot claim unity with Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father if we are not one with each other. Our fellowship with God depends on our unity, as much as on our witnessing — to be one “so that the world may believe” that Jesus is from God (John 17:21).

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psa 133:1). Father God, help our Church achieve the unity of faith that all Christians sorely need. The forces of darkness draw strength from the division of Your people. Let our calling be not only to proclaim Your reconciliation but also to live it. Amen.