Leading Others to Jesus

John 1: 35-42
1 Jn 3:7-10 / Ps 98:1,7-9

“We have found the Messiah.” Then he brought him to Jesus.
(John 1:41-42)

Blessed is the man who leads us,
As Andrew led his brother Peter;
We all find our way to Jesus
Thru another to be His leader.

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” Jesus replied, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, t Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas”, which, when translated, means ‘Peter’. (John 1:35-42)

Reflection

When John the Baptist pointed out Jesus to his two disciples, Andrew and John, as the Lord walked past them, the two future apostles followed the Lord without hesitation, and stayed with Him the whole day. Later, Andrew sought out his brother Simon to tell him about the Messiah. Then he brought him to Jesus, Who told him, “You will be called Cephas” (or Peter). John the Baptist did not mind that his disciples would leave him to follow Jesus. He had said earlier, “Now I have seen and testified that He is the Son of God” (Jn.1:34), and told them much later, “He must increase; I must decrease” (Jn.3:30). It was enough for him that he had revealed the Messiah to others.

By his example, John the Baptist had led others to Christ. Have we ever consciously led others to the Lord through our renewal community and by being His model of true Christian living? Have our words and actions been a strong influence in the formation of the Christian values of those under our care?

By the Gospel ideals that we live by, each one of us can be a signpost leading other souls to God, just as much as by our bad example or indifference we might drive others away from Him. When good friends invited us to the breakfast fellowship of their community, we could not say no because they were a couple we held in high esteem. What we have learned and gained, in terms of genuine friends in the brotherhood, and more importantly, for the closer relationship we now have with the Lord we will always be grateful to our sponsors for, as we are sure they must be to theirs.

Lead us, Lord, to others that they too may see what we have seen and learned, and by the guidance of Your Spirit, the favor we received may be returned. Amen.

Witnessing in Jesus’ Name

John 1: 29-34
1 Jn 2: 29– 3:6 / Ps 98

Now I have seen and testified that He is the Son of God.
(John 1:34)

Come and testify to the goodness
Of God in every day revealed.
Be prepared to be called to witness
How your salvation was fulfilled.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” (John.1:29-34)

Reflection

Today is the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. How often do we testify to this holiest of all names whenever the opportunity presents itself? How many people do we hear witnessing to the goodness and wonders of the Lord in their life? As for me, writing and sending out these daily Gospel reflections for many years have made me realize that these are in fact testimonies to the power of God’s Word in my meditations. We can only praise God for His gifts of love and faith, and the grace to see their manifestations in our life.

Witnessing to God’s goodness is the least we can do to reciprocate what He has done for us. His Spirit has led us from the darkness of ignorance to the light of hope in eternal life. It is only fitting that we share His light with other men. As He said, “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt.5:16).

Every first Sunday of the new year, a dear friend and fellow runner celebrates his birthday with the members of our running club with a ten-kilometer run, followed by a thanksgiving mass celebrated by his close friend, a priest who comes all the way from Bacolod just to make the day a special one for him. A sumptuous breakfast follows. It’s the perfect way to start the year. Fitness in body and spirit, with friends of many years celebrating the gift of life. How can you not witness to others about God’s bountiful goodness? As St. Paul wrote in the first reading today: “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called His children. And so we are!” (1Jn.3:1)

We remember what You said, Lord, “Without cost you have received, without cost you are to give” (Mt.10:8) when You commanded Your disciples to go out and proclaim Your Good News of salvation. How then can we deserve the Kingdom if we do not share it with others? Help us, dear Lord, to perform this obligation. Amen.

New Year’s Resolutions

John 1: 19-28
1 Jn. 2: 22-28 / Psa 98:1-4

Who are you? . . . What do you have to say for yourself?
(John 1: 22)

To proclaim our Savior Jesus
Is one reason why we exist;
In this life we must give witness,
To this calling we cannot resist.

When the Jews sent to John priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” he admitted, and did not deny, and he confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What are you then, Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” They said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” Some Pharisees were also sent. And they asked him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, whose sandal straps I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing (John 1:19-28).

Reflection

John the Baptist had attracted a significant following by preaching and baptizing in the river Jordan. So much so that this attracted the concern of the temple priests, the Levites and the Pharisees who came to investigate. The people acknowledged him as a prophet, or at least, a holy man. Initially, his purpose was to baptize and preach repentance to the crowds who came, but his primary purpose was to proclaim the coming of the Messiah, “Whose sandal straps I am not worthy to untie.” He knew his calling, as prophesied by Isaiah, to be God’s herald, making way for Jesus Christ.

In today’s Gospel, it is clear that St. John the Baptist puts the focus on Jesus. As we begin this year, let us focus our mind on our life’s primary purpose — to proclaim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and to live our lives according to His values and ideals. It is not enough just to accept Him into our life as our inspiration and ideal. We have the example of St. John the Baptist to follow, even in our own little way. We can never be worthy to “untie his sandal straps,” because our salvation is largely through the mercy of God, but we must at least follow in the footsteps of St. John by pointing others to Jesus Christ. Because unless we acknowledge Him, we may well be denying Him. And as John the apostle wrote in his first letter in today’s first reading, “No one who denies the Son has the Father, but whoever confesses the Son has the Father as well” (1 Jn 2:23).

John the Baptist preached repentance, but also gave us an example of boldness in proclaiming the Good News. As we reflect on our sins of the past year and resolve never to fall into those sins again, let us also make a commitment to be our Lord’s mouthpiece in the marketplace. These are the best New Year’s resolutions we can offer as true followers of Jesus. May the Holy Spirit be with us as we begin another year in our journey – to guide us in the right paths according to the Father’s will.

Father, Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus has taught us all that we need to know in the Gospel, but at times, being human, we tend to forget our true purpose in life. Let the Holy Spirit keep us focused in our life mission always, we humbly pray. Amen.

Faith Like Mary’s

Luke 2:16-21
Nm 6: 22-27/ Ps 67/ Gal 4: 4-7

And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.
(Luke 2:19)

Lord, on this first day of the year,
We honor Mary, Jesus’s mother.
May her example draw us near
To our Savior, now and forever.

So the shepherds hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. (Luke2:16-21)

Reflection

In today’s Gospel of Luke, Mary, the mother of Jesus took the time to reflect on the strange events surrounding her Son’s birth. It had not been easy traveling from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea, (in obedience to a Roman decree to register) at a time when she was about to give birth. All the inns were fully booked, and they had been forced to take shelter in a cave, fit only for horses and cattle. But this humble and strong lady took it all in stride, happy in the thought that despite all the miserable conditions she was being subjected to, she was the mother of the Messiah, the Lord and Savior of all mankind. Sure enough, her confidence was confirmed by shepherds who came to give homage to her Son. They told her about the hordes of angels who had proclaimed His birth. And soon after the magi from far-off lands would also pay them a visit, bearing gifts fit only for a king.

Today is the first day of a new year. How fast 2018 seemed to pass, and yet just a month ago, it had seemed to take forever to end. I guess we’re just relieved that that tumultuous year is over, and it’s now time to look forward to a better year and a future filled with more confidence. Indeed the year past had been full of ups and downs – although the rising inflation was arrested by the lower price of oil, the streets of major cities could not sustain the surge of vehicle population. The scourge of unemployment continues to drive the massive exodus of our jobless to foreign lands, even though their foreign currency remittances have been a great boon to our economy. Then, suddenly, it seems as if things are looking up again. How did we survive 2018? It was simply our strong faith as a Catholic nation.

As Catholics, we are fortunate to have Mary as our model of faith and perseverance. She accepted without doubt the words of the angel during the Annunciation, just as she never wavered in her trials on Calvary. Pope John Paul II was a great devotee of our Mother Mary. In his homily at the turn of the millennium, he said we must be like the Mother of God, always reflecting in our hearts to be grateful for all past events, whether ill or fortunate; to live the present with exuberance (“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord”); and to look forward to the future with hope and confidence. And why not, indeed, when we believe that we have a loving and constant Father in heaven, and a Mother who will intercede for us in our times of need? Thank God! Happy New Year! Welcome, 2019!

Father, as we make our New Year’s resolutions today, we ask for the guidance and wisdom of Your Holy Spirit, and for the intercession of our Mother Mary, our ideal of faith. Amen.

Reflecting on the Year Ending

John 1: 1-18
1 Jn 2:18-21/Ps 96

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
(John 1: 1-2)

John talks about the Beginning,
We wonder as the year’s end is here:
What will the next year be bringing?
May God fill it with goodwill and cheer.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true lightning , which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. (John 1:1-18)

Reflection

This day marks the end of the year 2018. And yet today’s Gospel talks about the beginning — the never-ending Word of God Who is eternal– our Lord Jesus Christ, the Alpha and the Omega. He is “the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn.1:5) Through this Light from God we have come to have life, because through Him God has given us power to become children of God, believing as we do in the power of His Name. (Jn. 1:12)

Today, let us reflect for a moment on how we have lived this past year, so that we can make a firm resolve to become even better in the coming year. How well did we spread goodwill and cheer among our relatives, friends, co-workers and neighbors? How often did we show affection to our spouse and children? How much time did we spend with our parent(s) or grandparent(s), knowing how little time they have left to live on earth? How much effort or resources did we expend to give hope to those who were in desolation, or the light of the Good News to those who were in darkness? We have received the fullness of God’s grace; how much of it did we share with others? How often did we stand for the truth, and spoke against the immoral and the unjust? How much good did we accomplish to make this world a better place to live in? These are just some of the questions we must ask ourselves if we are to make a resolution to become better Christians, and worthy children of God in 2019. We can start by pledging that only good, truthful and gentle words pass through our mouths to promote peace and love in our relationships and be pleasing to our God.

Lord Jesus, as we enter another year in our life’s journey, we pray for the grace to become better heralds of Your Good News not only in words, but in living our lives in accordance with our Father’s will. May the Holy Spirit abide in us always, as we strive to be more spiritually active and productive in the coming year 2019. Amen.

The Fall and Rise of Many

Luke 2: 22-35
1 Jn 2:3-11 / Psa 96

Behold this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign of contradiction, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
(Luke 2:34)

What was once a great mystery
Was that “sign of contradiction”;
But soon Christ’s Word revealed to me
That His cross was our salvation.

When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”, and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.

For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign of contradiction, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.. And a sword will pierce your own heart too.” (Luke 2:22-35)

Reflection

Everyone who met Jesus fell, either into repentance or down to reality. He caused many to both fall, and then rise again. Simon Peter was the first when he witnessed the miraculous catch of fish and fell at Jesus’ feet, saying “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). Matthew came next when he left his post as a tax collector. St. Paul had the biggest fall of all (from his horse) when the Spirit of Jesus met him on the way to Damascus. But as Simeon predicted, all of them rose again to become the best followers of Jesus in spreading His kingdom on earth.

When we come into a closer relationship with God, He will reveal to us how sinful and unworthy we are of His beloved Son’s suffering and death on the cross. To fall down in humble penitence is an important process of our transformation, because, after all, we can never get to heaven on our own merits. Until we fall from the pride and prestige of this world, from the need to be self-assured and self-sufficient, from the folly of financial achievements and human glory, we will never learn to rise to the call of the cross, to be humble, to be servile, to wake up to the realization that we are nothing, and everything belongs to God alone. Let us always keep in mind the words of the Apostle Paul: “What do you have, that you weren’t given?” We who have acknowledged Jesus as King should live lives that reflect His character, especially His humility.

We have the Blessed Mother Mary as our ideal. She was given the privilege of being the mother of the Son of God. But with this high privilege also came a “sword which would pierce her heart” as her Son would die on the cross. She received both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow. But her joy was not diminished by her sorrow because she had faith and trust in God’s promise. The Lord gives this strange kind of joy which helps His favored ones bear any sorrow or pain.

Lord, thank You for Your supernatural love, which none of us on earth can ever hope to fathom; it fills us with gladness, and great expectation of things to come. Amen.