The Lord’s Prayer

Luke 11: 1-4
Gal 2:1-2,7-14 / Ps 117

Let our prayers be for others,
Not for our own whims or desires;
Trust all our needs to our Father
Who always listens, never tires.

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.” Luke 11: 1-4

Reflection

In the days of the patriarchs, the Israelites worshipped God by offering sacrifices, and usually, as a community. Only the Levites, the priestly clan of Israel, could lead or represent the people in prayer. It was only when John the Baptist, led by the Holy Spirit, came into the scene and taught his disciples how to meditate that the hunger of the Jews for a more personal relationship with their God Yahweh was satisfied. As he baptized them in the river Jordan, they no longer felt that their God was a distant God, but a very personal one. One of the apostles of Jesus, a former follower of John, must have been ‘awakened’ to this novel form of worship, and so asked the Master, Whom they always witnessed in deep meditation, to further enlighten them about personal prayer.

Our Lord Jesus has taught us in “The Lord’s Prayer” that the Father is a person, Who responds to our prayers according to the sincerity of our intentions. Nothing is too great or too little for His consideration. He loves to hear His children praying not because He desires to be adored, but because it pleases Him to see them growing in holiness through their prayers.

Too often we find it difficult to pray when our prayers become mechanical, a force of habit, or a routine that must be done with before we get on with the day’s work, sit down for a meal, or hit the sack at the end of the day. Let’s face it: we only get serious with our prayers when we are asking God for something. But God doesn’t mind that we remember Him only in need. As long as we have faith in His Divine Providence, and the answer to our prayers adds to our spiritual growth, He will fulfill our supplications. Our two grandsons (3 years old and 11 months) were both sick and had high fever. I could hear their coughing over the phone as our daughter related their sleepless nights. We told her that we would pray for their healing that night. And we did, quite fervently, asking the Father to please grant us our prayer for the kids’ healing. The next morning, our daughter called us to say that they all had a restful sleep and the two kids were both fine and no longer had any fever.

It was then I remembered the words of St. Paul, who wrote that “in everything God works for the good of those who love Him” (Rom. 8:28) I believe our God is really a very loving personal Father. Jesus said, “If you who are sinful can give what your children asks for, how much more Your heavenly Father?” He will certainly give what we ask for as long as we surrender to His will.

Heavenly Father, forgive us for the times when we doubted. Thank You for being so loving, patient and understanding, and for increasing our faith in You. Amen.

At the Feet of Jesus

Luke 10: 38-42
Gal 1:13-24 / Ps 139

You are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.
(Luke 10:41-42)

To know God’s Will’s our lifelong goal,
By daily reading of His Word.
It frees our mind, eases our soul,
Listening at the feet of the Lord.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” But Jesus answered, “Martha, Martha, You are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

Reflection

As the Lord and His apostles passed by the village of Bethany, they were welcomed in the house of Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. While Martha hustled up some refreshments in the kitchen, her sister Mary decided to sit at the Lord’s feet to listen to His teachings. With the burden of preparing food for so many visitors upon her, Martha complained to Jesus to send Mary to help her. But the Lord admonished her instead, that Mary had chosen the more important option which Martha had ignored. And we remember the Master’s words: “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

There are many things today that should cause us to be anxious and worried. Hardly any economic or political indicator can give us reason to feel optimistic. First, the price of oil (upon which 70% of all our power requirements is based) has reached the highest level in 10 years, and shows no indication of going down. The trade wars of the US against China and Russia have affected the much needed foreign investments in our country. It has not helped that we have lost sympathy from traditional allies because of a brash president. In the national scene, the situation is even bleaker. Our government is fast losing credibility as prices of commodities keep on rising. 20% of our national budget is allocated just to pay the interest portion of our nation’s debts, and the government is still keen on borrowing heavily just to sustain its infrastructure needs. Unemployment is second only to crime and corruption as the major reasons for the brain drain in our country. Meanwhile, vigilante killings continue, even as the country’s drug abuse problem worsen. Graft and crimes against persons and properties continue to defy the rule of law.

So, are we to worry and be anxious about the quality of life in our country today? No. Because worrying and being anxious about our problems will never solve them, and may only exacerbate the situation by putting us under stress, leading to stroke, heart disease or cancer. What we need is to maintain a positive attitude by praying to God for guidance and discernment, fully trusting that He will see us through all these trials. “Listen at His feet” (like Mary), by reading the Bible often, and receive the sense of peace and confidence that only He can give. But (like Martha) we also need to work harder and more efficiently, and with faith in God, be confident that we will overcome our problems.

Trusting in Your mercy, Father God, we shall work to succeed without fear or anxiety. Amen.

The Samaritan’s Compassion

Luke 10:25-37
Gal 1: 6-12 / Psa 111

“Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
(Luke 10:25)

Jesus is our Good Samaritan
Who came to save mankind from sin;
May we also lend a helping hand
To one in need, stranger or kin.

An expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Jesus replied, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had treated him with mercy.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10: 25-37)

Reflection

We can imagine how controversial this parable must have been to the Jews when our Lord chose a Samaritan as the third character in His parable to help the robbers’ victim. It was hard enough for them to hear Jesus do a smear job on the honor of the priests and Levites in His story, but to make a Samaritan the hero of the parable must have been a bitter pill to swallow. The priests and Levites were considered by the Jews as a privileged class of their citizenry whom they held in high respect. The Samaritans, on the other hand, were a tribe of “half-breeds” who inhabited the northern region of Israel when it was overrun by the Assyrians, and who also claimed to be descendants of Abraham. The Jews hated this people and considered them as their enemies, if not “third-class” citizens in their own country.

In His parable, Jesus was sending a powerful message to the Jews of His time regarding the stark difference in the observance of the Judaic laws (which the lawyer represented), and the grace of God (represented by the Samaritan’s compassion) as the means “to inherit eternal life”. By showing the attitude of the priest and Levite, who, because of their fear of “being defiled” refused to extend acts of mercy to the suffering man along the road, it was evident that it was virtually impossible to obey the law perfectly in order to be saved. Salvation then can only come as grace from God, and not as obedience to His laws as interpreted by men.

One can only be saved if he follows God’s commandment of love. Not by sacrifices, nor by being faithful to the law. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father” (Mt.5:43-45). This teaching explains why Jesus used the Samaritan (the enemy) as the favored protagonist in His parable, to show that when it comes to God’s love and mercy, there is no enemy. Even those we consider as our enemies are loved by God, Who “makes His sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes His rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Mt.5:45).

The law of love as elucidated by our Lord Jesus in the Parable of the Good Samaritan is an eternal principle that will never change. Until we learn to love our “enemies” (those who are different from us), there will never be true peace on earth, and God’s kingdom here will remain an unfulfilled promise.

Dear God, Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan has convicted our selfishness, our pride, and our prejudice. May we “go and do likewise” whenever a situation requires acts of mercy from us. May Your compassion flow freely out of our hearts for friend or foe in need. Amen.

Joy in Serving the Lord

Luke 10: 17-24
Jb 42: 1-3, 5-6, 12-17 / Ps 119: 66, 71, 75, 91, 125, 130

Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
(Luke 10:20)

I asked as I knelt down to pray,
“These blessings, why do I deserve?”
I rejoiced when I heard Him say,
“Because it’s the Lord God you serve.”

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” At that very moment, He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” (Luke 10:17-20).

Reflection

One of my favorite models as a Catholic is St. Francis of Assisi. This beloved saint belonged to a wealthy family, but renounced all his possessions to follow Jesus’ way of life complete-ly and joyfully. With joy he embraced poverty and selfless service in complete obedience to what he had heard in prayer: “Francis! Everything you have loved and desired in the flesh it is your duty to despise and hate, if you wish to know my will. And when you have begun this, all that now seems sweet and lovely to you will become intolerable and bitter, but all that you used to avoid will turn itself to great sweetness and exceeding joy.”

I often wondered: why is it that most of the Protestants and born-again Christians we meet exude an aura of joy and gladness of spirit that is in stark contrast to the solemnity and seemingly gloomy atmosphere that we find in most Catholic churches? Could this be one of the reasons why many Catholics have joined other Christian denominations, because the spirit of joy is sorely lacking in our masses and worship assemblies?

There are three major reasons for this absence of joy in one’s spiritual life. The first is lack of gratitude for the many blessings in our life. In most cases, we only realize the value of something when we have already lost it. Take our health, for instance. Lack of gratitude for this precious gift makes a person take for granted the importance of regular exercise, balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. Instead, he indulges in harmful substances like alcohol and cigarettes with no regard for their long-term harmful effects. When he is eventually paralyzed by stroke or stricken with emphysema, it is the only time he stops smoking and drinking, and regrets the loss of his good health. A healthy body belongs to a very happy and appreciative heart indeed.

The second reason why the gift of joy may not be present in one’s life is the absence of ministry in it. The pursuit of wealth, influence and prominence in society has never achieved true joy in living. In his life, St. Francis found that it is only in service to God and to others that one discovers peace of mind and gladness of heart. Joy is the fruit as well as the fuel of faithful service. The author, Joseph Campbell, said the path of bliss lies in looking for ways that we can be of more service to those around us, giving joy both to ourselves and to those we are serving. It is God we serve for all the blessings He has given us.

Finally, joy and gladness of heart will always be a part of our life because we have the gift of hope – for the salvation that awaits us at the end of our earthly journey. Every follower of Christ bears in his heart joy in the fact that his own name is already written in heaven. This is the reason why we cannot help but “overflow in praise of God” to men. If we talk about Him often, it is not so much because it is our duty as because God is our delight.

“I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoiced in great riches . . . I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word” (Psalm 119:14,16).

Alas for Unrepentant Hearts!

Luke 10:13-16
Job 38:1,12-21;40:3-5 / Ps 139

Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the One who sent me.
(Luke 10:16)

Woe for all the pledges broken,
But worse for those without remorse;
From all our sinful paths taken,
Repentance is our sole recourse.

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the One who sent me.”
(Luke 10:13-16)

Reflection

Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were the towns along the lake of Gennesaret where our Lord performed many “mighty works”, like casting out evil spirits, healing the sick, paralytics and lepers, and even raising the dead back to life. Jesus also taught the people in these towns many of His lessons and parables. However, the leaders of the people in these towns, especially their scribes and pharisees, and high priests of the temple, refused to change their ways and yield to repentance. They were still cynical, if not indifferent to the Lord’s call. Jesus upbraided them for their hard hearts and skepticism. “Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida!” (10:13) Here was God’s Word trying to save them from destruction, calling them to walk in His way of truth and freedom, grace and loving-kindness. But His words and wonders were met with doubt, cynicism and indifference.

What weigh the spirit down the most are an unrepentant heart and self-righteous pride. However righteous one tries to live his life, he can never attain salvation through any merit of his own. Only through God’s own initiative, and humility of dying on the cross for our sins have we been redeemed. We have nothing to feel righteous about.

When we finally submitted to Christ in repentance, He granted us the grace to see how deadly sin is, and so we have firmly believed repentance is what we most need. Freed from the chains of guilt, we now turn our efforts to the Lord’s service. After all, how can we show our gratitude for the blessings that God has given? Or how can our debts ever be repaid? When we consider the pains and death that Jesus suffered on the cross for our sins, we should feel shame if we ever turn back to our old ways again. Forgiveness is what we most need, and we can never have it unless we first learn to acknowedge our sins, and lift them up to God for His forgiveness. Sin can trap and paralyze us, and harden our hearts. Only in true repentance can we be healed and freed. If we ever had a glimpse of hell, we would tremble in great fear. No wonder “the fear of the Lord” is mentioned 32 times in the Bible.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for making us realize what worthless sinners we would still be, if not for your great love that has given worth to our lives. Forgive us for all our sins, and through Your most precious blood, wash away our pride and and teach us also how to be more forgiving. Amen.

Our Christian Mandate

Luke 10: 1-12
Job 19:21-27 / Ps 27

The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the Master of the harvest to send out laborers for His harvest.
Luke 10:2

When we are sent on God’s mission
All that we need the Lord will give;
We don’t worry about provisions,
As long as we fully believe.

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the Master of the harvest to send out laborers for His harvest. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. (Luke 10:1-12)

Reflection

In the last chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, before our Lord ascended into heaven, He commissioned His followers by addressing them in these words: “Full authority has been given to Me both in heaven and on earth; go therefore, and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you. And know that I am with you always, until the end of the world.” (Mt.28:18-20)

As members of the Church, we all have a specific mission to make all men Christians. Jesus’ directive is clearly addressed to all the members of His Church in no uncertain terms. If we truly believe, then we have been drafted into God’s Army. Through His Commission, Jesus has ordered us to the frontline to do battle against the forces of hell, and to liberate others from Satan’s evil influence. As soldiers of Christ and members of His Church, we have the responsibility to teach and proclaim the Good News to all as we have learned it from others, or was given to us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21) God the Father sent Jesus, His Son, to proclaim the Good News. Now Jesus gives the same commission to us to bring the light to those who still live in darkness.

Evangelization is life’s mission entrusted to every disciple of Jesus Christ. He said, “If you wish to be a follower of mine, deny yourself and take up your cross each day, and follow me. For if you choose to save your life, you will lose it, and if you lose your life for my sake, you will save it. What does it profit you to gain the whole world, but lose your soul? If someone feels ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Glory and in the Glory of his Father with his holy angels.” (Lk.9:23-26)

Grant us, O Lord, the grace to be bold in proclaiming your Word in the marketplace. As followers of Jesus, let Your Holy Spirit guide us in our life’s mission, so that we may be worthy of Your kingdom. Amen.