Once upon a time, a king observed that his kingdom was becoming very filthy. He sent his messengers to instruct the people to keep their homes and surroundings clean every day, but the response was inadequate. Hence, the king thought about doing something different about the kingdom’s uncleanliness.
The next day, he sent a message throughout the kingdom, demanding a private audience with each family chief from all the families in the kingdom. The king made each of the heads vow not to reveal the meeting’s content to anyone, even their immediate family members.
Few days after the meeting, the entire kingdom suddenly transforms into a perfect haven. One could see every household cleaning, repairing, and even decorating their houses. The same thing happened to the roads leading to various homes. The kingdom was never that clean. Still, nobody knew what the king said to each of the family chiefs.
One day the king’s only daughter summoned the courage to ask the king to share with her what he said to each of the family chiefs that suddenly transformed the kingdom. The king opened up and said, “I had to tell each of them to clean up their surroundings as I would be coming to eat and stay a night with them, and I will come with a special gift. I also said to each not mind if others are doing the same thing that I will surely come to them”.
The king’s daughter marveled at her father’s wisdom by making every household comply with the directive of cleanliness, thinking that they were preparing for the king’s coming to their homes. But the king’s daughter asked, “what about the gift you promised? Who would get it?” Replying, the king said, “I did not name any gift, but all of them already have it.” “What is it?” the king’s daughter asked, and the king said, “cleanliness, that is what they have been lacking, and they now have it by their conscientious preparation for my coming.
Preparation is the greatest gift anyone can give to oneself. Life is all about preparation, and by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. The word prepare comes from two Latin words, “prae” (before) and “parare” (make-ready). We understand from this Latin root that to prepare means “to make ready before.”
One can find the best examples of preparation in God. Notice that before God created animals, He prepared where they would live. Before making the first human being, God planted a beautiful garden and even gave it a name; Eden (Genesis 2:8), which means delight. God will never do anything without preparing the foreground; in fact, we can say that preparation is a significant characteristic of God.
The Readings of the Second Sunday of Advent have one standard message: the desirability of preparation in the context of our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming. The Book of Isaiah (Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11) anticipates the comforting coming of the messiah while challenging the people to prepare by filling the lacks, and removing the obstacles, and being upright in their lives. In the Gospel Reading (Mark 1:1-8), the prophet John the Baptist, quoting the prophet Isaiah’s oracle, invites the people to prepare by renouncing their sins and accepting repentance. St. Peter adds in the Second Reading (2 Peter 3:8-14) that we should prepare by conducting ourselves in holiness and devotion.
Understanding the three types of preparation
We are very conversant with physical preparation because it involves our physical senses. We are often serious with physical preparation for the wrong reasons, like trying to impress, win favors, or get validated by people. While physical preparation is essential, it should not be our ultimate preparation; for instance, the preparation for the births of Jesus Christ should not be all about Christmas trees, lights, jingle bell, and other external decorations. Physical availability also involves making ourselves available at the right time.
The human mind lies at the border between the spirit and the body. The Book of Provers (23:7) says that as a man thinks so is, he. St. Paul writing to the Romans (12:2), says, “do not conform yourself to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind to discern what is the will of God, what is good, acceptable, and perfect.
Physical preparation without mental preparation would look like driving without direction—mental preparation functions in giving vitality to our willpower, a sense of purpose, and readiness to function. Mental preparation helps us to form a dependable mindset and remember that your mindset determines the miles you go in life.
The whole essence of preparation is to make us get ready for the coming of the Lord. Physical and mental preparations can only take us so far. Spiritual preparation is the ultimate form of preparation; for this reason, St. Paul says: “live in the spirit and do not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16)
The Prophecy of Isaiah (40: 1-5,9-11) gives us three dependable ways to undertake spiritual preparation:
(1) Filling the valleys. A valley is a low land between two high lands. Spiritually it shows that something is lacking. Spiritual preparation here entails bringing back the values that we have lost in our lives. These include but are not restricted to our lack of faith, hope, trust, patience, and ultimately our lack of love for God and others.
(II) Levelling the mountains and hills. Mountains and hills are elevated landscapes. In this context, they appear to be obstacles. Leveling the mountains and hills entails removing the obstacles on our spiritual terrains. They include but are not reduced to an excessive attachment to material things or worldliness and defective mindsets.
(III) Smoothening the rugged plain. Something is rugged when it ceases to be straight. The two essential things you need to make straight are your relationship with God and others and your prayer life.
The message today is clear; we either prepare or we pre-fail. What remains to be said is the primary key we need to unlock these three areas of preparation. That key is discipline. Discipline is the aptitude and consistency in complying with specific rules and expectations. Without discipline, preparation would be incomplete or even impossible. Furthermore, without discipline, we would continuously go back to our former ways and habits.
Now we know better. Our needful physical, mental, and spiritual preparations could be attained when we fit into the mold of discipline and the time to start is now because the Lord is coming near, and every heart needs to prepare him a room. God bless you. Have a blessed weekend and a more glorious week ahead.
The story of the Chinese bamboo trees would be immensely helpful for our reflection. Once upon a time, a farmer heard about Chinese bamboos and how they could make anyone rich. So, selling some of his properties, he went in search of the seeds. He found a seller in a distant town. After the transaction, the seller leaves the farmer these words before: “always water, wait, and watch!”
The farmer was delighted to tell his family and friends about the bamboo seeds when he returned. He shared how he would soon become rich when the seeds germinate and grow into tall bamboo trees. Everyone was happy for him and looked out for the magic.
Every day, the farmer goes to the farm watering the seeds. He did that for an entire year, but there was no sign of sprouting. He thought about it, but he remembered the seller’s words, “always water, wait, and watch!”
For the second and third year, there were no signs. The farmer’s family and friend became disappointed in him as he would still go out every day to water the seeds even when he could not see any sign. The fourth year was the same. But in the fifth year, something happened! He noticed some sprouting around the field.
In the following weeks, the stems were coming up in geometric proportions, and in just six weeks, there were bamboo trees everywhere towering up to ninety feet in height. It was then that the farmer realized that for all the five years he was watering the seeds, the roots were developing underground, and when they were strong enough, the bamboos sprouted and bloomed. The seller’s instruction worked: “always water, wait, and watch.”
Today, we enter the Advent period and a new trimester in the Church’s liturgical calendar. The Advent is a period of waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The coming of the Lord we await is symbolic because he would be born in our hearts (the new Bethlehem). Furthermore, we also await his Second coming, which would be at an unnamed time and season.
We are in the season of watering, waiting, and watching and the readings today give us those indications. The Book of Isaiah (63:16b-17,19b; 64:2-7) describes the people’s intense longing for the intervention of God, who is referred to as Lord, Father, and Redeemer. St. Paul in First Corinthians (1:3-9) tells his listeners to wait for our Lord Jesus Christ’s revelation. Finally, the Gospel (Mark 13:33-37) takes up the theme of watchfulness or alertness.
The Principles of Watering, Waiting and Watching for the Lord
Watering involves praying. Notice that it is difficult for living things to survive without water. What water is to life is what prayer is to the Christian life. Any Christian that does not pray is like a fish that cannot swim.
Waiting is not something most people like to do, but life comes with waiting. It could be painful to wait and more painful to wait for something you cannot see or feel. Imagine the frustration that could have overwhelmed the farmer as he waited five whole years to see the first sign of sprouting from the seeds he planted.
Most people feel frustrated, disappointed while waiting on God. It could be your story too. Often, we think that God is too busy to attend to us. Sometimes we even assume that God is no longer mindful of us. “I have prayed and waited for a long time, and I cannot continue,” some people often say. It takes faith to wait. Faith helps us to be trustful and hopeful without searching for a sign or evidence while doing so (Hebrew 11:1).
Watering and waiting without being watchful defeats the whole purpose of our relationship with God. Being watchful requires patience. It takes patience to keep alert and watch even when there are no positive signs, like in the farmer’s case in our opening story.
The Obstacle to Watering, Waiting and Watching
The major obstacle that hinders our disposition to watering, waiting, and watching is the misfortune of distraction. Anything that takes your attention from a desirable goal or value is a distraction. Distraction often starts from ourselves. We can become a distraction to ourselves through our choices and the things we allow into our lives. Family and friends could also become objects of distraction and other things around us that may be helpful in some material ways.
Your distraction might be during your prayer times when your mind begins to run around the entire world instead of focusing on God. Your distraction may be distrust and hopelessness when you ought to be trustful and hope on God. Your distraction may be impatience when you need to rely on God’s timing.
Often, some people wonder why they should wait on God. It could be your burden too. We should wait on God because God’s worth the wait. Next, we stand to gain when we wait on the Lord. Isaiah says that those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31). So, waiting on the Lord revitalizes and renews us.
Furthermore, we ought to wait for the Lord because He is bringing something bigger and better. I would not know exactly where you are now in your life; maybe you are fed with your current situation, and you want to quit. Please, before you log out, try to look up!
There is power in watering, waiting, and watching. St. James (5:7) tells us to be patient until the coming of the Lord just as the farmer waits for the crops to receive the early and latter rains to germinate and flourish. This is the same way you will thrive if you would keep watering, waiting, and watching.
God bless you; have a blessed weekend and a joyful week ahead.
“The Proud King” was originally a story in the poem of William Morris before it got many versions. It talks about a wealthy and influential king who became arrogant and proud. He even imprisoned the local priest who preached that God could make a rich man poor and a poor man rich. One day as he was indulging in his riches, he said to himself, “I am the richest and wealthiest king in the entire world; what prevents me from being god?”
The next day, he asked his servants to prepare the King’s escort for a hunting activity in the woods. While they were hunting, the King decided to ride to the nearby stream to cool off. As he was swimming, an angel with his resemblance appeared, and taking up his royal garments, the angel left with his horse and joined his servants, and they all left for the palace. Meanwhile, the servants noticed that their King suddenly became calm and humble.
When the proud King was done swimming, he could not find his clothes nor his horse; he was naked and alone in the woods. Calling out to his servants, he could not hear anyone because they all left with the angel who took up his appearance and other things he had.
Frustrated, the proud King decided to stop by the house of one of his knights. The knight could not recognize him and even chased him away into the cold night for impersonating the King, who stopped by his house earlier.
The next day, the proud King shows up in the palace, barely clad. Unfortunately, the palace guards could not recognize him nor allow him to enter the palace. Suddenly, the angel having his appearance showed up at the palace gate with the queen. The proud King called out to the queen, but she thought he was a mad man and asked the guards to throw him out, and they did.
Beaten and defeated, the proud King goes to a private place to ask God for forgiveness. He was still crying when he heard a voice that asked him to look up. Raising his eyes, he could see his royal garments and the horse. He dressed up and riding to the palace, he gets a royal welcome. From that moment, he learned to be humble and respectful to God.
Today, the Church celebrates our Lord Jesus Christ, the universal King. The feast became urgent at the dawn of the twentieth century through the encyclical of Pope Pius XI, Quas Primas. The twentieth century brought the geometric rise and spreading of secularism, leadership struggles, two world wars, and even the Spanish Flu Pandemic that affected a third of the global population and claimed about fifty to a hundred million lives.
Standing today in the twenty-first century, one could still see the relevance of proclaiming Jesus Christ as the Universal King. We are living in an age of growing inattention to God. Materialism is a ruling king; politics has become a notorious kingdom with malicious kings everywhere. Modern technology is currently ruling the lives of many people. At this point, each one of us needs to answer the question, “who is your king?”
The Kingship of Jesus Christ
The Kingship of our Lord Jesus Christ is typically unusual, unearthly, and, therefore, unacceptable to those who conform to this world’s patterns. Earthly Kings stay in palaces, and their subjects provide for them and protect them even with their lives. But our Lord Jesus Christ the Shepherd-King who provides for the sheep. He knows each one by its name and lays down his life for them (John 10:11-18). Every King exists to serve and not to be served (Matt. 20:28).
Most earthly kings are arrogant and prideful like the proud King in our story. But Jesus Christ, our Lord, and King, did not count on his equality with God but humbled himself, taking the form of a servant (Phil 2:6-8). Note that anyone in any authority position that is not humble would never get a divine endorsement (James 4:6).
Unlike the Kings of this world, our Lord Jesus Christ is:
What can we do with all the benefits we have in Jesus Christ the Universal King? There would be the need for each one of us to enthrone our Lord in his or her life. Who is your King? It is easy to say that Jesus Christ is the King of your life and another thing to allow him to reign in your life. The same way we have bibles, but we do not read them, and we have different prayers, but we do not say them.
Let us strive to enthrone the Lord in our lives and let Him reign in everything we do. May Jesus Christ reign in our souls. May the Lord reign in our homes. May He reign in our families. May Jesus reign in our communities. May Jesus reign in all the nations of the world forever and ever. Amen
Australian pelicans have the most extended and beautiful beak or bill (as often called) among the other avian creatures. The beak should be about twenty inches long, and it could expand in size when they hunt to get food. One day, three female pelicans decided to visit a famous lake many hours away. They were excited as they fly through the sunny weather.
Suddenly, one of them thought to herself: “I will just display my beautiful bill for other animals and people to admire, so I will not bother picking anything by the lake.” The second also had similar thoughts. She said, I would have to pick just a few small fish in the shallow areas; I cannot risk hurting my beautiful beak.
The third pelican had a completely different thought. She said, “I am thankful for my long, beautiful beak. I will make optimal use of it today to get as much fish as I can from those deep areas rich with big fish. Getting to the lake, they all acted according to the scripts of their thoughts.
The first went about displaying her beak and getting all the attention from tourists and other birds. The second did the barest minimum with her bill, being careful not to hurt it. But the third went to the deep areas to catch fish, and she had a good meal. When it was time to go, the first could not fly because she had no strength to make the journey back as she was starving all day. The second tried flying but could not go too far because she had a little meal. But the third was up in the skies strong and able to make the journey back.
Everything we possess in life is for a purpose. Success is when you put what you have to the right use. In the Gospel Reading (Matt. 25:14-30), our Lord Jesus Christ tells us about the parable of the unfaithful servant.
In the narrative, a man was going on a journey to an unknown destination and calling his three servants together, he entrusted them with his possessions according to their abilities. He gave five talents to the first; to the second, two, and the third, he gave one talent. The one who got five talents traded with them and made another five more. The one who got two did the same and got two more. The individual who got one dug a hole in the ground and buried the talent.
The master returned after a long time and called them to render accounts. We already know what the first two servants accomplished with their talents. The master commended them as good and faithful servants and promised to give them greater responsibilities since they excelled in the little they were given.
The third servant got it all wrong to bury the talent he received from the master. He calls the master a demanding person who harvests where he did not plant and gather where he did not scatter. Imagine the arrogance!
Replying, the master called him a wicked and lazy servant and asked why he did not deposit his money with the bankers so that he could get some interests when he returns. Finally, the one talent was taken from him and given to the person with the ten, and he also lost his place in the master’s employment.
The Real Problems of the One-Talent Servant
A very attentive insight into the parable shows that the one-talent servant had not just one issue but many attitudinal challenges. We shall explore these and how to overcome them to turn our talents into treasures.
Laziness is the unwillingness to do something even when one could do it. The designation lazy servant is an oxymoron because a servant has to serve, and when you say that a servant is lazy, it means that the purpose of serving is defeated.
The one-talent servant was a lazy bone. Notice that when the master delayed returning from his trip, he relaxed and became complacent and inactive. There is a close relationship between laziness and procrastination. The First Reading from the Book of Proverbs (31: 10-13, 19-20, 30-31) gives us a contrast to laziness with the example of a worthy wife who is always willing to work with her hands.
We become envious when we become dissatisfied with ourselves and wish that another person’s quality is ours. We cannot rule out that the one-talent servant was envious of the other two who got more talents than he got. There would be no guarantee that he could do better if he got more talents because we already know that he was lazy.
Furthermore, the narrative tells us that the master gave them the talents according to their abilities. So, the one talent fits into what he could do following the master’s knowledge about them.
In the Gospel of Matthew (23:13), Jesus denounced the scribes and Pharisees for locking out people from the kingdom of God. They would not enter nor allow people to enter. This aptly applies to the one-talent servant. His wicked heart made him stagnate the talent of the master for all the time he was away. He did not make gains from it and did not allow it to bring interest by depositing it in the bank; that is inconsiderate and wicked. The heart of the servant was evil.
It is not usually difficult to dictate a prideful person from the individual’s statement. Notice the audacity the servant uses to tell the master how demanding he is and how he harvests where he did not plant and gathers where he did not scatter. He was trying hard to justify his inability to use the one talent he got from the master. He was not humble enough to accept his laziness, envy, and wickedness.
He could also have over-rated his ability and felt that one talent was below his capability, which was pride. The Book of Proverbs (16:18) says that pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before destruction.
Moving Forward: Turning your Talents into Treasure
The first thing we need to do is to appreciate whatever talents we have received from God. Next, there would be a need for us to activate our talents, which means being willing to work with it. The book of Proverbs (10:4) says that the lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth. St. Paul would also add that anyone unwilling to work should not eat (2 Thess. 3:10). We need to snap out of the laziness of both the body and the spirit (sloth). Work out your salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12).
God has given gifts to each one of us according to our abilities. There should be no competition when it comes to talents. Envy distracts us from appreciating and using the skills we have received from God as we keep focusing on others. Notice that the envy of the one-talent servant could not stop the success of the others.
Moving forward, let us resolve to turn our talents into treasure by accepting, appreciating, and utilizing them not only for our personal development but also for the good of others and to the glory of God, the giver of every talent. Remember that the highest talent we have is love, which conquers everything (1Cor. 13:7).
Have a beautiful weekend and a glorious week ahead.
Could you recall any foolish thing you did recently for which you can boldly accept your foolishness? I could remember running out of gas one rainy evening as I was returning from a funeral. Though I saw a gas station, I was, however, hoping to stop at the next one, but none showed up until my car came to a dead stop. After calling for roadside assistance (AAA), a towing truck lifted me and my car to the next gas station twenty-five minutes away. I felt foolish because I made the wrong choice.
I have come to understand and accept lately that life is a field of choice-making, and we become as good or as bad as our choices. In the Gospel Reading from Matthew (25:1-13), our Lord Jesus continues to teach about the kingdom of God with another parable. He talked about ten virgins waiting for the arrival of an unnamed bridegroom.
Typical of most parables, Jesus makes a distinction. Here the contrast is between five of the virgins who were wise and the rest five who were foolish. Note that this distinction lies in the choices they made before coming to the ceremony. The wise ones made the right choice by bringing extra oil in their flasks for their lamps, not knowing how long they would wait. The other five were foolish because, though they had burning lamps, they thought they had enough oil that would last the whole time
The bridegroom arrived late; in fact, they were all asleep when he came, and quickly, they started trimming their lamps to enter the wedding feast. Naturally, all their lamps were running out of oil and needed topping up.
Those who had extra oil added some to their lamps but could not share with the others who did not come with extra oil when they asked them. They instead advised them to go to the local sellers to buy. They went, but before they could return, the marriage banquet started, and the door was shut. Their persistent knocking and calling could not change the bridegroom’s decision, who made it clear that he does not know them. The door closed, and the case closed!
Foolishness Equals Wrong Decision
The opening story shows me deciding to get gas from an imaginary station while driving past a real one, and that was a wrong decision, which could be called foolish. The Book of Psalms (14:1: 53:1) tells that the fool said in his heart, “there is no God.” Here we understand that the most foolish things we do start from our defective thought patterns that eventually move us to make wrong actions
In the parable, the five foolish virgins thought that flasks of oil would be needless, and that was the foreground of their decision to come without additional provision. On the other hand, the rest five virgins took their flasks of oil, leveraging their wise choices.
The Flask of Oil
The turning point of the narrative is undeniably the “flask of oil.” The product sets the standard between the wise and the foolish virgins. On a deeper level of thinking, we need to understand the meaning of the flask of oil.
As used among the Jews, the oil flask appears to be a jar-like that could contain less than a litter. The oil comes from beaten olive, which keeps a lamp burning continuously (Exo. 27:20; Lev. 24:2). The lamp itself is a spherical-like pottery object with an outlet for a wick and another opening for the oil.
From the narrative, we understand that the ten virgins came as light-bearers for the wedding feast. That explains their invitation to the wedding. They needed to make sure that each had her lamps burning, and the “policy” did not permit the sharing of oil. Without their burning lamps, the virgins were useless in the wedding feast.
What do you think made the five foolish virgins leave their flasks of oil behind? The answer is presumption. The attitude of presumption is one of the deceptions of the mind that leads to bad choices. In their minds, they could be thinking that the others would bring enough oil, and they could share or that the bridegroom may not take much time before he shows up. The attitude of presumption is often a bad transaction!
Keeping in mind that our Lord Jesus Christ was giving a kingdom parable, we understand here that the flask of oil represents those virtues that would help us attain the kingdom of heaven. We cannot share them with anyone. It is all about your faith, your hope, and your love. St. Paul would call them the three things that would endure (1 Cor.13:13).
We also remember that the narrative is about virgins, and one would think that the designation alone would help them go into the wedding dinner when they returned from buying the oil. Here we learn that virginity without virtue is vanity.
It is not enough to be a Christian by name and identity; that would be foolishness. There would be a need for us to have the “essential oils” that would keep aflame our Christian life. As we march into a new week, let us try to re-examine our priorities, discard presumption, do the needful now, and run with those needful virtues that would lead us to God’s eternal kingdom.
God bless you.
The life of the Italian teenager Carlo Acutis is a very contemporary instance of sainthood in an age that wrestles with a lot of distractions, irreligion, and dispassion for God. Some of us may have heard the story of this seventeen-year-old boy who was recently beatified in Assisi on October 10, 2020, a few days after St. Francis of Assisi’s feast.
Carlo Acutis from Milan, Italy, was born on May 3, 1991, in London while his parents lived and worked there. Growing up, Carlo had a unique attraction to the Church and prayed the rosary always. After receiving his First Holy Communion, he made it an obligation to attend daily masses. He would also observe the holy hour before or after the Mass.
We understand that most parents would regularly drag their children to Church, but it was the opposite for Carlo Acutis, who made his parents take him to the Church. His constant demand to go to the Church triggered the rejuvenation of the lukewarm faith of his mother. She confessed that before Carlo, her experience of Church was on her wedding day after her first Holy Communion and Confirmation.
The incredible dimension of Carlo’s life that made him a highlight was not just his love for the Holy Eucharist but his unrelenting efforts in sharing his experiences. Carlo documented most of the Eucharistic miracles worldwide and cataloged them on the website he designed as an amateur computer programmer, www.miracolieucaristici.org.
Carlo died of Leukaemia on October 12, 2006, with the following words in his mouth: “To always be close to Jesus, that’s my life plan. I’m happy to die because I’ve lived my life without wasting even a minute of it doing things that wouldn’t have pleased God.”
The Path to Sainthood in the Dot Com Age
Some time ago, a child asked me a question that I did not expect. That was after telling her class the story of a saint. She said: “Fr. how can I become a saint now?” It would have been easier if the question were, “who is a saint?” Becoming a saint is not a one-time or on-day thing; it is a goal one reaches by following some steps. The historic statement of Carlo shows that sainthood involves doing those things that please God daily until death.
Carlo was born in 1991, and that makes him a millennial or Generation Y. That means he comes from a technology-driven generation. The millennials are also called digital natives. From the testimony of his parents, Carlo was “technologically savvy.” Like most kids of his age played video games; however, unlike most kids, he goes to the internet to search for Jesus Christ. He did not search for celebrities, fashion, and even pornography that is currently destroying the morals of many.
Carlo discovered the transforming power of the Eucharist and the Eucharistic Miracles by browsing the internet. That was how he began the project of sharing his experience with his immediate peers. Furthermore, the desire to reach out to more people made him develop his website we mentioned earlier. On the website, he presented the various Eucharistic miracles occurrences across the world.
From Carlo Acutis, we learn that it is possible to live a saintly life and become a saint in an age driven and distracted by the various tools of information technology and its contending forces. Carlo achieved his sainthood by doing things that are pleasing to God and teaching others to do the same. From Carlo, we learn how the positive use of computer and internet technology could transform the world.
The world depended so much on the internet at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Through the various social media platforms, most people could participate at Mass virtually and get some spiritual nourishment. We now understand that we can find God and spiritual upliftment through our computers, tablets, and mobile phones. It all depends on what we seek on the internet.
Moving Forward: Sainthood is Possible
St. John tells us in the book of Revelation that he saw a multitude impossible to count from every nation, tribe, people, and language standing before the throne of the lamb (Rev.7:9). Sainthood is, therefore, a facility that is open to everyone. It begins with the choices and decisions we make as we pass through this journey called life.
The beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew (5:1-12a) give us helpful steps towards sainthood. Keep in mind that the word “blessed” identifies the saints. You are blessed when you are poor in spirit because the kingdom of heaven shall be yours.
You are blessed when you mourn; there would be a comfort for you.
You are blessed when you are meek, and you shall inherit the land.
You are blessed when you hunger and thirst for righteousness (not for the world); you shall have satisfaction.
You are blessed when you are merciful because you will receive mercy.
You are blessed when your heart is clean because you will see God.
You are blessed when you make peace, and you shall be called a child of God.
You are blessed when you are persecuted for the sake of righteousness because the Kingdom of God will be yours.
You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of the Lord. Rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in heaven,
You too can make heaven, and sainthood is open to you. Let us rise and be on our way with undying faith, unfailing love, and steadfast hope (1 Cor. 13:13). God bless you!
How do you feel when someone says, “I love you,” and you can tell that the statement is from the person’s heart? Elated and appreciated, I guess. Love is immensely powerful and overwhelming. The best story ever is the love story. Furthermore, St. Paul tells us that it is the foundation of everything (1Cor.13:7).
Lately, I reflected on why we use heart shape ♥ as an image to represent the phenomenon of love, and I made some amazing discoveries that I would love to share. The heart’s anatomical function shows that the human heart is divided into two sides: the left and the right. The left pumps oxygenated blood to the entire body while the right eliminates deoxygenated blood and other wastes like carbon dioxide.
We should remember that the two sides must work in unison for the individual to survive. Heart failure occurs when one side malfunctions like in the pumping of blood, which could cause death. We could take away from this analysis that one side of the heart is not enough; the two sides must be dynamically operational for anyone to live.
The Gospel Reading today (Matt.22:34-40) tells us about the answer our Lord Jesus gives to a man that doubles as a Pharisee and lawyer who wanted to know the greatest commandment in the law. Answering, Jesus said:
You shall 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 is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.
Scripture study helps us understand that our Lord Jesus connected two Old Testament passages to answer the question. Deuteronomy (6:5) takes care of the first part, while Leviticus (19:18) takes care of the second part. However, the amazing and instructive fact is how Jesus made them one and two commandments simultaneously. Furthermore, in the Gospel of John (13:34), Jesus makes love a new commandment when he said to his disciples, “I give you a new commandment that you love one another as I loved you.”
The first part commands that we love the Lord we all our heart, soul, and mind. Among these three, only the heart that gives us the image of love is tangible. Furthermore, our analysis of the human heart shows that two sides look alike and work together. Here see the heart’s left and right side adequately representing love ♥: the first is like the second!
How do you combine the Love of God and Neighbor?
I once asked people in the Church to choose between loving God and their neighbors. You could guess that God got the highest vote. But many in the congregation were surprised when I referred to the First Letter of John (4:20) that says:
If anyone says, I love God, but hates his brother; he is a liar for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
The idea is that love should start from the seen and move over to the unseen. Your neighbor is a tangible representation of God because he or she is created in the image and likeness of God. That explains why in the First Reading (Exodus 22:21-27), God asked the people to show love and affection to strangers and the less fortunate like orphans and widows. The description of the last judgment by our Lord Jesus shows that we shall be examined by whatsoever we did or failed to do for our neighbors (Matthew 25:34-46).
Moving Forward with the Two Sides of Love
As the heart beats continuously, we need to allow love to beat in everything we do. Love should not be a thought or a word but the selfless action we accomplish for others and to God, by extension, following the two sides of love’s dynamism.
One of the misrepresentations we give love is that we see it as a transaction. Most people are heartbroken today because they loved with the high hope of being loved back. Sorry, true love is sacrificial, not beneficial. St. Paul tells us that love does not seek its interest (1 Cor. 13:5).
On the other hand, some people fail to love because they do not see anything to gain by loving; that is another error. A famous singer’s lyrics say that love does not ask why it does not think twice, but it speaks from the heart. Let our hearts radiate love, especially at this dark moment in our human history.
Only love can win all our battles in our lives. Let us give love a chance now. I love you, and may God who loves you more bless you!
Ownership mentality is perhaps one of the significant cables in the human structure. We all like to identify who owns what and how much. In business administration, ownership refers to the legitimate right of possession. In other words, it indicates that something belongs to a named individual or persons leveraging some proofs. For instance, the title of a car suggests the owner because it bears his or her name.
It is also important to note that ownership comes with responsibility and accountability. For instance, car ownership always comes with the expectation of responsible driving and handling of the car.
The Gospel Reading today (Matthew 22:15-21) gives us a narrative that has ownership as a significant factor. It started as a plot involving a joint team of the Pharisees (an extreme religious sect) and the Herodians (a radical secular group). The unfitting union of the polarized group was designed to entrap Jesus in speech.
Coming to our Lord, they started with a round of flattery about his truthfulness and ardent disregard of individuals’ opinions and ranks. After that, they asked him a close-ended question that requires either a “yes” or a “no” answer, and it reads, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”
The plot was to make Jesus choose a “yes” and get the backlash of the Pharisees who would favor the temple tax above the census tax. Or to select a “no” and offend the Herodians who push for Caesar’s taxes due to the gains they make from them. Furthermore, they were not clear about the type of law whether religious or state law.
The answer our Lord Jesus gives, knowing their plan and even calling them hypocrites, could have shocked the joint taskforce. Getting the coin that pays the census tax, he asked, “whose image is this and whose inscription?” They mentioned Caesar, and he said, “then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and God what belongs to God.”
The reply was both unexpected and thought-provoking to them and us reading it after more than two thousand years. For many years now, most people, including Christians, have misread and misapplied those instructive words from our Lord Jesus Christ.
Some people believe that our Lord was asking people to combine God’s worship with some involvement with other gods. But they seem to forget that God said that we should not worship any other god (Ex. 20:2-5) nor even mention their names (Ex. 23:13) because He does not entertain rivals (Ex. 34:14). You will learn a new meaning of this statement at the end of this reflection
Between Caesar and God
Though the narrative tells us that the Pharisees and the Herodians wanted to entrap Jesus in speech, the real contention is about the ownership of our lives, between Caesar and God. We shall examine this more intently.
Historically, Tiberius Caesar (42 B.C – 37 A.D), who was ruling at the time of the ministry of Jesus Christ, was a great terror over the entire Roman empire. Extreme torture, obscenity, immorality, and corruption marked his 23-year rule. At that time, the people earnestly cried out for a messiah in the political sense of liberation. The only difference between the devil and Tiberius at the time was that people could say no to the devil.
Beyond this historical fact, Caesar represents anything or anyone that opposes God directly or indirectly in our lives. Caesar describes whatever takes our attention from God or competes for our time and resources to the detriment of our relationship with God.
Our world breeds with the images and impressions of various kinds of Caesars not on coins, but in multiple aspects of life. In our day and age, we still have many political Caesars worse than Tiberius Caesar in their flagrant irresponsible leadership styles. There are also religious Caesars who, like the Pharisees in the Gospels, excel in pretentious and hypocritical religiosity.
Dealing with the “Caesar Mentality”
We may not waste our time trying to examine the boundaries between what Caesar owns and what God owns because whatever belonged to Caesar is subject to God. The word of God tells us that the earth belongs to God and everything in it, the world, and the people who live in it (Psalm 24:1).
There would be a need for us to discard all the ravaging effects of Caesar’s mentality in our lives moving forward. The Caesar mentality tells us that what matters in life is material ownership, power, and money. The Caesar mentality tells us that God should keep to His side and allow us to live our lives the way we want. The Caesar mentality is about immodesty, immorality, corruption, and oppression. The Caesar mentality is a way that seems right but leads to destruction (Proverbs 14:12)
The best way to deal with the Caesar mentality that holds many people today is to submit to God (James 4:7). While you are still an earthly citizen, be the best you can for the human society but do not allow it’s strung to rob you of your heavenly citizenship (Phil.3:20). The world as you see it is passing away with all attendant Caesars’, but those with God abide forever (1 John 2:17).
Now, this is what our Lord meant; the coin belongs to Caesar, in other words, to the world, but you belong to God, so give to God what belongs to God, and that is you! God bless you and have a wonderful weekend and a beautiful week ahead.