Saturday, July 28, 2007

The day I stopped praying


17th Sunday in Ordinary time
Cycle C

Gospel reading: Luke 11: 1 - 13

Don’t get me wrong. I am a strong man of faith. At least I struggle to be one. But the day I stopped praying was when I was a child. I prayed to receive, receive, and receive. I prayed to get high grades, to receive honors, to receive gifts, and all others that I need to pray for. I asked God to focus on me and hear my prayer.

But time after I graduated from elementary, something happened with the way I prayed. By the time I finished Grade school, I was not really interested in what I was praying for. Yes, my prayer was answered. But I gained much more: I gained a Friend.


After grade school, I continued praying to Him, but unlike my first experiences of prayer, the next ones I found hard for the Lord to grant them. I prayed for so many, but it seemed that the Lord is granting only a few. Maybe, the Lord wanted me to grow in my outlook of prayer – from a childish one to a childlike one. For I was challenged with this thought, “If the Lord seemed not hear your prayers, would he still be your true friend?" I stopped praying to receive. Instead, I started praying for the Lord to hear others' prayers. I knew they would be more important than mine.

Later on, the prayer would further asking instead what my Friend would want - my time, my talent, my treasure? Since I knew that what I would give to him would not suffice for all the good He has done for me, I wouldn’t have anything to offer Him, except my own life.

This new journey of prayer led me to where I am right now. I decided to offer myself to the Lord as a priest and commended everything I love – my parents, my family, my friends, my concerns of the future – I offered all those dear to me. I knew that I value all these, but there’s no better way to value that to entrust everything to His care.

I still pray like a child. I’d pray with all my might, especially when my mother was confined at the hospital. I would bargain and plead to the Lord for her recovery. But I also knew that His will is a whole lot better than mine. I had to let go of what I want and allow him to do what is best. We in the family made a final commendation of our mother. He prepared her and received her into His loving arms. I knew that everyone would be secured in His loving arms and there is nothing to be afraid of.

Yes, I stopped praying wrongly, but the Lord taught me how to truly pray.

photo courtesy of catholicweb.com

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Doing God's work

16th Sunday in Ordinary time
Cycle C

In a book by Fr. Tom Green, S.J. titled "Darkness in the Marketplace", he cited the difference between "working for God" and "doing God's work." He gave the example of someone who would like to give another a present.

"What do you want for your birthday? Tell me, a new shirt, a car, a trip abroad. I can give you whatever you want." Then the celebrant said, "I want blue cheese for my birthday."

"I would not want to give something repugnant. I want you give you something else, something more valuable."

"Yes, you want to give me something valuable, but I still want blue cheese," was the reply.

If you're the one giving, which one would you choose, to give what you want or what he wants?

There are two types of those who serve God: those who "work for God" and those who "do God's work". The first type serve the Lord according to their own terms and availability. The service may be noble or grand, but it may not be what the Lord wants. For he wants "blue cheese." Sooner or later, we may opt to shift from "working for God" to "doing God's work."

Martha represents those who "work for God" and Mary, for those who "do God's work." Jesus said that Mary has chosen the better part and it shall not be deprived of her. It doesn't mean that the Lord rejected Martha and her work in the kitchen. But her work should be complimented with the total attention Mary gave to our Lord.

Martha also represents the millions of lay people who have the best intentions to serve the Lord but are overwhelmed with the concerns of daily life. Reflecting on lay spirituality should give people working in the world valuable insights on how "to do God's work" while working in the "marketplace" of life. All it takes is to go back to the most basic reality - to put God at the center of everything and to revolve all other concerns around Him. To do God's will is the best thing that we can ever do in our lifetime.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

How to be a neighbor


15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C

"Who is my neighbor?" is the question posed by a lawyer to Jesus. Perhaps in this humorous anecdote we can also get a glimpse on who the real neighbor should be.

May nahulog sa kanal.
Uzi: ay, nahulog siya sa kanal.
Uzi: hihihi, nahulog siya sa kanal.
Realist: may kanal.
Optimist: kaya mo yan.
Pessimist: wala nang pag-asa yan.
News reporter: ngayong, nahulog ka sa kanal, anong nararamdaman mo?
City official: may permit ka bang mahulog sa kanal?
Matematician: gaano kaya kalalim ang kanal?
Doctor: baka maimpeksyon ka sa kanal.
Pari: may tatlong punto akong ipapaliwanag tungkol sa kanal.
BIR agent: nagbayad ka ba ng tax para isara ang kanal?
Jesus: Kunin mo ang aking mga kamay.

It is undeniable that true love can only be found in action. Remember the Church's spiritual and corporal works mercy? Simplest as they may sound, but doing them may constitute the most profound commitment to being a true Christian. Visit the sick, clothe the naked, bury the dead, console the lonely, advice the wayward ...

In action, we commit our fullest selves, put ourselves on the line, utilize every gift we have for the sake of the other. This is the quality of being a "neighbor". We extend Christ's loving arms to others through us.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

What matters most


14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C

The song of Kenny Rankin titled "What matters most" pretty much summarizes the gospel message for this Sunday. You would agree with me when I say that in spite of the technological advancements to make life easier, life has become more complex, confusing, and oftentimes disturbing. Even kids would now have "child stress" brought about by various influences around them.

We need to remind ourselves "what matters most" - not the quest for more power, more luxury or material wealth, or more influence or so-called "financial security". As Kenny says, "What matters most is that we love at all."

The readings for this Sunday all point out to the one thing that matters most - God. Only God matters most. Only God gives life, provides life, sustains life. Even in sickness, sin, and death, only God can give life, not expensive, luxurious homes, not high-paying jobs, not the fantasies we built for ourselves and for our family. Only God is capable of giving life to us in all forms.

We need to go back to the basics. We need to learn from Jesus like in the gospel when he instructed his disciples to go to the households and preach the good news. They didn't have to bring everything; they just had to bring themselves. In this renewed way of life oriented to God, we only need to bring ourselves and to tune ourselves to God's will.

We also need to do what is right for our neighbors. Not business proposals, not strategies for making more money, but like the disciples, to preach the good news of God's salvation, to cure the sick, to bring life even to the dead. We need to put into concrete action the powerful reality of "love".

What matters most is that we love at all.