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God Meets You Where You Are

September 4, 2017 Leave a comment

Be honest with yourself: Accept who you are and your current status in life. Be genuine; keep it honest and real. And with that acknowledgement, be honest with God, too. Go to Him just as you are, for He accepts you as that, and He meets you where you are.

God doesn’t expect you to be perfect. Now, this doesn’t necessarily give you an excuse to sin. Rather, He accepts the imperfect love you can give for the perfect love that He has for you. It’s enough that you make the effort to love Him with all your heart, soul, and mind.

Come to Him for all your needs and concerns. It’s an act of humility to depend on Him because there’s nothing you can do on your own. Be grateful for all that He gives you, for all that He doesn’t give you, and for the manner and time that He gives you want you truly need and want in life.

Trust God at all times, and most especially during times of trial that He allows to happen in your life, for trust in Him is probably one of the best ways, if not the best way, to express your love for Him.

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Categories: Religion

Martyrs for Jesus the Christ: Keep the Faith

April 14, 2017 1 comment

I watched some parts of a movie entitled “Silence.” It’s about Portuguese missionaries attempting to spread and sustain the Christian faith in Japan in the 1600s, at a time when the faith was outlawed and persecution was rampant. One missionary was killed, but eventually another one, the main character, was forced to apostatize (renounce the faith) to literally save the lives of Japanese faithful (and those who previously apostatized) from torture and death.  There’s an underlying theme of God’s silence throughout such hardship, which has lead the main character, a priest, to the edge of despair. Eventually the priest was forced to apostatize and renew his renunciation every so often until the end of his life.

The Church will continue to be persecuted for the simple fact that we’re a counter-cultural force in the world. In my opinion, I’d go so far as to say that if the Church isn’t being criticized or attacked for something, then we’ve failed to live out our duty to Christ. In these modern times the Church and even non-Catholic Christians suffer from one form of persecution or another. You’re lucky if you live in a country where the Church is just being criticized and ridiculed. What’s sad is sometimes the criticism comes from fellow Catholics and Christians; instead of trying to understand each other, we end up dividing each other instead. And there are still some nations where it’s illegal to practice the faith, and so you do so in secret under pain of literal death.

Martyrdom

The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will… even if that center is right smack in the middle of chaos. – one of my friends, Jade S.

The blood of martyrs seeded the faith of the early Church. In one form or another, such has continued to happen throughout the centuries, and still continues to happen in this day and age. This movie got me thinking about how far one would actually be willing to go to keep the faith.

It’s a lot to ask to be a martyr for Jesus the Christ. The experience in Japan, as depicted in this movie anyway, got me thinking that there’s an “easy way” and there’s a “hard way” to be a martyr. Both still involve horrendous pain, but the approach to inflict it can be “very involved.” The “easy way” is you’re subjected to torment. If it’s just you involved, then it makes the decision to die for Jesus relatively easier, because the worst that could happen is that you lose your life – it’s just you, and no one else. The “hard way” is if other people are held hostage: Give up the faith, otherwise other people will die. There’s an element of psychological torment in this latter approach because you somehow become responsible for the life and death of others – you have the power to do something to change that, but it will involve a cost too great to bear.

When it comes to the “hard way” of martyrdom, you lose with whatever decision you make. Strictly speaking, it’s still a grave sin to renounce your faith, even if by doing so you get to save the lives of others. It’s still a sin to not do anything, when you have the power to do something, to save the lives of other people, if you decide to keep your faith instead; in effect here, you’re not just deciding to be a martyr, but you’re also deciding for other people that they will also be martyrs when perhaps such is far from their minds.  Choosing between the lesser evil is, ultimately, still choosing evil.

Obviously, the “hard way” of martyrdom isn’t fair at all, and it’s not surprising to find yourself questioning God’s sense of justice in this scenario. I think it’s worth remembering that Jesus is the Just Judge – He’s NOT the sadistic judge! His sense of justice is still present; I won’t pretend to know and I won’t speculate how He will make the call in this scenario. But what I do know, in faith, is that Jesus’ sense of compassion is also always present, and more than likely so in this particular situation. At the end of the day, what’s important for God is that you do what you do out of great love for Him and the people He loves.

For what it’s worth, although it’s still a sin to give up the faith, the greater evil and hence the greater sin is with the one that subjects you to a situation where you’re forced to sin. Greater accountability rests with those who create unjust social structures that force people to do evil because doing what’s good is condemned.

It’s better to be condemned by the world for doing the right thing and being yourself, even if that means being very different and at odds with the culture to the point of suffering for it, than to be celebrated for doing evil and conforming to worldly standards and expectations. At the end of the day, the only thing that will really matter is God’s judgment on your actions, because whatever you do or fail to do in this world is between Him and you.

God’s Silence

I believe in the sun even if it isn’t shining. I believe in love even when I am alone. I believe in God even when He is silent. – Anonymous World War II refugee

The most distressing thing you can hear is to not hear anything at all from God when you’re right in the middle of Hell.

It’s easy to say that you’re never alone because God is always with us, but in practice it’s utterly difficult to believe that when you need Him to intervene with an evil that’s happening – and especially if it’s happening to you – but you don’t see Him do anything to stop it. Feeling all alone and abandoned, it’s easier to cry out at the top of your lungs that “God is nowhere!”

Despite the seeming silence, God is still with us up to this day and age because He wants to be intimately involved in our lives, if we let Him. Because He is God, He literally has the power to stop evil in this world. If He doesn’t then it doesn’t mean it’s His fault. Remember that His ways our not our ways; He has a purpose in allowing bad things to happen that will ultimately work out to our best interest. Besides, He finds ways to give us good things also, sometimes despite ourselves.

In the midst of evil, God is facing the trials and tragedies of life by our side. In moments of despair it does feel like we’re all alone, but that’s not true. He will never leave us, most especially in the lowest points and saddest moments of our lives. Some good will come out of this, even if we never find out or really understand it during our lifetime. And, really, He doesn’t even expect us to understand His will; it’s enough to know that whatever trials He allows will be for our good, in time.

No student is greater than his Teacher. If we think God is so quiet in the company of so much evil, then we’re not alone: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Even Jesus, in His humanity, experienced this same thing (Matthew 27:46). But He had to die because love is sacrificial in nature. Dying for us was the best proof that the Father could show us how much He loved us, even if there was an easier way for Him to do so. Compared to previous times, the Father stayed silent when Jesus cried out to Him to show that He wouldn’t intervene in what had to happen, because out of love for us, He knows His Son’s death for the atonement of our sins had to happen. If there’s ever any doubt that good can somehow come out of this, then look no further than Jesus’ Passion and death on the Cross.

Even in our darkest hours, and most especially during such, He’s actually still there. Being a follower of Christ doesn’t necessarily mean that we will escape all the pain in this world, for such isn’t necessarily part of His plan. However what being a follower means is we’re not facing the trials of life alone. And with all the faith we can muster, we can cry out in a loud voice that, instead of saying “God is nowhere!” we say instead “God is now-HERE!”

On a side-note: We cannot expect God to be selectively “noisy.” We can’t expect Him to intervene when someone is doing evil but then stay out of our way when we ourselves are doing something evil. Ultimately this matter also goes down to God’s continuing respect for His gift of free will to us. And God was, is, and will always be consistent.

Man of Weak Faith

I can most relate to that one character in the movie that keeps on going to Confession, because, like all of us, he has a favorite sin. All throughout the movie, he confesses the same sin. This man’s sin in particular was renouncing his faith whenever his life was in peril; he doesn’t need to be forced to do so.

The fact that he keeps on repeating the same sin again and again is not the point. The point is he acknowledges how much he needs Jesus in his life, and despite his weakness, always makes the effort to try and come back. I’m not disappointed that he kept on committing the same sin; I actually admire that he kept on coming back and was genuinely sincere in all his attempts to reform his life. If I can appreciate that, then for sure God appreciates that, too (Luke 15:7). Each time he came back, it became a testimony of God’s infinite mercy and love for His children.

I’m a man of weak faith. I’d like to think that I’ve taken steps over the years to try and grow my trust and confidence in our Lord; I constantly pray for the grace to do so. My faith is not tested with my life, which is a good thing of course, but it’s tested everyday by how much effort I’m willing to exert to be obedient to God’s commands of love. In this day and age, this is the opportunity for people like me to shine as martyrs for Jesus.

But should the terrible day come when I need to pay for my faith with my life, or if absolutely necessary, also with the lives of other people, I honestly don’t know if I can do it. By my own power, for sure nothing will happen. And so on that day, I will look to God, and despite His seeming silence, and with what little faith I can muster, put my hope and trust in Him that He will give me the grace to do what He wants me to do. I hope it never does, but should the terrible day come, I know that this is what He’ll want me to do.

Jesus, I trust in You!

[Editorial note: I also incorporated what I learned from a few Homilies. One of the priests of my parish talked about God being “nowhere” when he eventually realized that He is always “now-here.” A guest priest that celebrated Mass in another parish talked about the Father’s silence during the Passion as an example of why He didn’t intervene. I’m grateful I actually paid attention to what the priests were saying since such have also informed my insights on the matter.]

Categories: Religion

Faith is a Gift

October 15, 2016 Leave a comment

One of the Gospel passages this week was one story about the Pharisees requesting for a definitive sign from Jesus just so that they can believe without any doubt that He is the Christ.  Jesus refused to give them a sign except that of Jonah and his three days inside the belly of a fish – and of course, there was something greater than this in their midst.

I’m reminded of some related reflections I had on this topic.

One possible sign to make people believe is if the devil actually showed up.  God doesn’t want us to feel forced to love Him and follow His commandments, even if such are for our own good, out of respect for our free will.  The sight of pure evil will be shocking enough to encourage people to stop sinning – but this will only be done out of fear, not out of love.  Besides, the devil would want us to believe he doesn’t exist because he’s more effective in operating covertly.  If we see outright that he’s leading us to our ruin then we will resist even harder.

Another sign that could make people believe is if God showed His might in the grandest way possible.  Entering today’s scene, essentially showing Himself to everybody will definitely display all His power and might.  People will follow and obey Him henceforth.  Although that looks all nice and what-not, the level of freedom that people operate with to come to such a decision seems limited.  They’re not following Jesus out of love for Him; they’re doing it just because He has proven that He is God, and everything that comes with that.  In other words, they’re doing it out of fear.  And God doesn’t want us to love Him out of fear, for such isn’t true love at all.  Besides, to the truly obstinate, no show of force or grandiose display of miracles will ever convince them to believe.  Their hearts are closed to the truth, and for such people, showing off one’s power is just a waste of time.

The take-away I got from the priest’s Homily is this: For Faith to be a gift, it must be free.  It must be free from any coercing influence that will require someone to believe whether they want to or not.  No matter how good something is, out of respect for their desires and choices, people should still have the option to reject it.  If you have to force someone to believe in something then maybe such isn’t as definitive and real as you claim it to be.  And even if such were true beyond reasonable doubt, there’s nothing you can do for the person who refuses to believe despite all the evidence you present.

Categories: Religion

Ask and You Will Receive the Lord

October 9, 2016 1 comment

One of the priests that celebrate Mass at the Saint John Paul II Parish made an interesting call out for the Gospel reading last Thursday, October 6.

The following is a version of a passage of the Gospel according to St. Matthew.

The Answer to Prayers

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.  (Matthew 7:7 – 11)

The following is a version of the same passage of the Gospel, but this time according to St. Luke, but with a highlight on the call out the priest made, and some commentary from the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Conference that supports it, too.

The Answer to Prayer

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?  If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit* to those who ask him?”  (Luke 11: 9 – 13)

* [11:13] The holy Spirit: this is a Lucan editorial alteration of a traditional saying of Jesus (see Mt 7:11). Luke presents the gift of the holy Spirit as the response of the Father to the prayer of the Christian disciple.

It’s a nice reminder that at the end of the day, even if we get everything that we ever want in this world and then some, the only thing that will truly fulfill the deep longing of our heart is God.  And so it truly is a blessing to finally receive the Lord when we seek and ask for Him to be part of our life.

But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. (Matthew 6:33)

Let’s continue to ask God for what we need and want in life.  But let’s not forget to prioritize asking for Him.

Categories: Religion

Genuine Christianity and Genuine Atheism

April 24, 2016 1 comment

If you’re going to be a Christian, then be a genuine Christian.  Being a follower but only in name isn’t enough – you need to apply your faith in this world.

Let’s be realistic here: Following Jesus is the most difficult thing you’ll ever do in your life.  You’ll fail plenty of times and in more ways than you’ll care to admit.  But the point is, at least you try, and I think in the end that’s all that would matter.  God appreciates the effort; we can and should trust in His infinite love and mercy.

Contrasting this is not ever trying at all.  If the Christian life is something that you can’t be bothered with, it would be just honest and right to leave the faith and follow another belief, or follow no belief anymore, whichever is a better fit for the life you want to live.  At the end of the day, it’s important to be true to yourself.  And knowing how much God respects our free will, He wouldn’t want it any other way.

And if you’re going to be an atheist, then be a genuine atheist.  Some people don’t believe God exists because, in good conscience and reason, they sincerely believe that He doesn’t exist.  But some people don’t believe God exists because they have reasons why they don’t want Him to exist.

Categories: Religion

Trust in God: The Point of Asking

April 2, 2016 Leave a comment

The thought crossed my mind: God can literally do anything He wants, most especially with how our lives are lived.  He doesn’t need our opinion regarding the decisions He makes on how things will turn out.  Under these circumstances, it makes me wonder if there’s still any point in asking Him for anything since at the end of the day His will is and will be done.

I think there’s still a point in asking Him for anything and everything we need and want.

The Answer to Prayers

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.  (Matthew 7:7 – 11)

1. God gave us the gift of free will, and through this, He gives us the opportunity to participate in His plan for us – or not.

Although God is omnipotent and what-not, His influence in our lives actually ends where our free will to choose to cooperate with Him or not begins.  He gave us this free will because He wants us to take charge of our lives, otherwise He might as well have just created automatons.

How we choose to use our free will to cooperate with Him is also up to us.  In the wedding at Cana, if Mother Mary didn’t intercede then, knowing how good He is, things would have turned out alright in the long run, somehow.  But God gives us the opportunity to influence how things turn out, and so Jesus heeded His Mother’s intercession to help the couple concerned.

2. By asking God what we need and want, we recognize that we need Him in our life.  And recognizing that there’s nothing we can do without God is an act of humility.

I remember Fr. Arnel Recinto, the Parish Priest of the St. John Paul II Parish in Eastwood City, mentioned something in passing in one of his homilies that the Lord’s Prayer is a prayer of petition in its entirety (or something to that effect).  Look at each part and you’ll see that it’s an appeal to God for Him to bestow His blessings on us.  Jesus Himself basically taught us that it’s okay to – and we should – ask our Father for what we need.  I think a prayer of petition is the most sincere prayer we can make because it recognizes that we can’t do everything ourselves and at the end of the day we’re all dependent on God, and that’s the truth.

3. God gives us the opportunity to influence the direction of our lives by giving us the chance to ask Him what and how things should happen.

If what we ask for is in line with His plans for us then it will be granted.  It’s quite possible that God could have had something else in mind.  But if what we ask for will still work anyway, and ultimately He’s okay with that too, then He could give it to us.  It takes a lot of trust in Him whenever He doesn’t give us what we want or diverts us or gives us something else.  In faith we know when this happens that He has something better in mind; we either accept that or we outright reject His will and do things our own way anyway.

Besides, He wants us to take charge of our lives and own the solutions to fix those areas of our lives that require it.  Asking Him for help on how we think things should happen, for as long as it’s in line with His will, is that opportunity to do so.

At the end of the day we have a God Who loves us beyond our wildest dreams.  It’s for this reason that we can continue to trouble Him with whatever concerns us, for He wants nothing more than to be involved in the lives of His children Whom He loves so dearly.

 

Categories: Religion

God’s Will and What We Want

May 12, 2015 2 comments

God doesn’t need our opinion; He simply does what He pleases.  Just looking at this fact by itself, it honestly looks bad and feels very harsh.  However we need to consider this in the right context.  God loves us, and it’s for this reason that He does whatever He does because in the end it’s what’s best for us.

It’s easy to need and want God by our side so that He can fix the problems we cause for ourselves and also do our bidding.  For everything else in life, especially when things are going right, it’s also easy to think that we don’t need Him.  This line of thinking is obviously arrogant; it expresses a sense of entitlement where none literally exists, for our Lord doesn’t work that way.  There’s really nothing we can do without Him.

Speaking of things happening the way we want, there’s something to be said about eventually getting what we want.  Sometimes it happens late, but at least it happens late rather than never.  However sometimes it happens late enough to the point that it’s no longer meaningful to enjoy, and so the moment to relish it has been lost forever.  However things turn out, getting what we want doesn’t guarantee our happiness.

Forcing the matter of getting what we want has a subconscious implication that this life is the only thing that we have and thus we should only live for this world, and that we know better than God.  To not get what we want would mean missing out on something wonderful forever, and that is tragic.  However even when we do get what we want, it’s in our nature to still seek and want more.  Enough is never enough.

Nothing in this world will ever satisfy us.  This continuous longing in our heart is for something more meaningful, one that would last forever.  No matter how great and wonderful the thing or experience we possess, at the end of the day what we deeply ache for is God, for only He can truly satisfy the longing of our heart.

Our deepest desires are what God wants for us, too.  When we look into ourselves to understand what we really want, we’ll eventually realize that this is in sync with what God wants for us, too.  And when we align our will to God’s will, we will get everything that we ask for — and so much more!

Categories: Religion