Saturday, October 28, 2017

Charity: the greatest commandment

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 22:34-40

The readings reveal the practical, even the most basic aspect of the faith as revealed during the time of Moses till Jesus: love of God and neighbor.  God loves the poor that usurers would be punished severely.  God will retaliate; he will come to the aid of the poor.

In the New Testament, Jesus summarized the Law into two: "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also."

These laws are summarized in one theological virtue: charity.

First, Jesus puts it most aptly in his law of love: "Love one another as I have loved you."  This implies that love for God and neighbor are not two distinct realities.  Our love for God should result in an unconditional regard for others; our love for others should transcend to its deepest meaning in love for God.

Second, charity results in an unconditional adherence to God's commandments.  Jesus said,"Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love" (Jn 15: 10).

Third, watch for the fruits of love: "joy, peace, and mercy; charity demands beneficence and fraternal correction; it is benevolence; it fosters reciprocity and remains disinterested and generous; it is friendship and communion: Love is itself the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest" (CCC 1829).

Heed St. Paul's words: "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love" ( 1 Cor 13: 13).

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Come to the banquet of the Lord!

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 22:1-10

Isaiah describes fully the Kingdom of God where there is a state of fullness, happiness, and life.  It's a perfect state of being that no one else can provide except Him alone.  It is a picture of heaven.

But it is not a heaven in the afterlife.  Rather, it is now, right here in the world where God reigns.  The problem why we don't see this picture is that we don't realize him in our lives.

The gospel also portrayed the kingdom of God as a banquet of rich food in the context of a wedding.  But this time, people are not prepared for the feast.  They're already far away from the king.

Times today have caused us to be preoccupied with a lot of things, leaving our hearts and minds filled up and not having enough space to accommodate God.  What results is a life lived in disarray and a community life which is wanting.  If only we can declutter our lives, then we shall see more of God and less of ourselves.

First, bring to mind God's perfect world.  How much do we really desire God and heaven?  Only then can we start organizing our lives according to God's will.

Second, follow Jesus.  God is not a formula or a set of rules.  Christ talks to us every moment.  Even at the beginning of our lives Christ communicates to us.  Are our lives reflections of what Jesus wants of us or we to ourselves?

Third, live Jesus.   St. James declares, "Faith without works is dead" (James 2: 26).  The acid of an authentic Christian life is through actions reflecting God's will.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Christian maturity

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 21:28-32 

The readings this Sunday appear progressive.  From integrity of following the law in the Book of Ezekiel to doing God's will in the gospel of Matthew, the message speaks a lot about our growth in Christian life.

St. Teresa of Avila even wrote a book on her experience of communion of God in prayer titled "Interior Castle".  In this this castle, there are seven mansions, each going a level deeper and more intense in one's encounter with God.  The castle is the state of the soul in one's search for God within.

Christian life begins with level one:  doing good and avoiding evil based on the covenant with God,
the Ten Commandments.  If we're really intent on following God, we should heed every one of his commands.

The second level to Christian maturity is utmost humility.  "Jesus did not cling to his equality with God, but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, (Phil. 2: 7).  Only the humble of heart is open to following God's commands and not simply follow the law.

The third level is in the gospel, "The one who did his father's will."  Actually, Elizabeth Scalia enumerated three "dangerous" prayers which may symbolize our deepest relationship with God.  These are:

1. "Let your will be done." - It is also the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemani; it depicts a prayer of total submission to the Father's will;

2.  "Ruin my life, Lord." - This prayer runs counter to what we usually pray:  "Please don’t wreck my life!”  But there's another prayer by Sir Francis Drake that best describes this sentiment:  "Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, when we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore..."

3.  "May my life yours." - This prayer is similar to St. Ignatius' prayer of generosity, "Take and receive of Lord my liberty, my will, my mind, my memory..."

If we live out these prayers, only then can God work wonders in our lives.