Monday, February 15, 2010

Challenges and Failures as Stepping Stones for God’s Glory and Man’s Spiritual Improvement: A Supplemental Rehash of Last Week’s Reaction

Synopsis: Lk. 6:17; 20-26

Jesus came down with the Twelve and stood on a stretch of level ground with a great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.

And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”

Homily of the Celebrant: Fr. Doroteo “Teody” Andres

Starting it by citing the words “Mapapalad tayong mga dukha,” the priest, in his very complicated homily so far, recapped and related the Gospel this week to that of last week, where Peter changed his life after the great catch he had by responding to Jesus’ instruction.

The bottom-line of the homily is simple: It is important to follow God and those who impose correct authority over us as the “poor in spirit,” not because out of fear but because by following Him, we would be properly guided and would be for our benefit.

What and who, then, are the poor in spirit? According to the homilist, it is the people who left everything just to follow Christ (referring to the Gospel last week)—those who denied their selves and carried their crosses. At times, we question our faith by whining how we would ever survive with this faith. But then, just as the story where Jesus’ followers, save the Twelve, abandoned Him. The reason why they remained was summarized in what Peter said: “To whom shall we go?”

In the end, the priest reminded that it is up to us how we would enliven the Good News.


Challenges and Failures as Stepping Stones for God’s Glory and Man’s Spiritual Improvement: A Supplemental Rehash of Last Week’s Reaction

Why are those who are in lowly state and the ones being depressed and lonely are called blessed? Who are they, anyway and why are they? These are the questions that may be reflected by the Gospel with the support of the other Readings (Jer. 17:5-8; 1 Cor. 15:12; 16-20).

Clearly, the Gospel is all about total dependence in the Lord without compromising action and prayer. And by being totally dependent, we must leave everything we do not need behind—somehow, a recall on last week’s Gospel. Thus, these are the objectives I would like to accomplish at the end of this reflection:

1. Relate the Gospel last week with that of this week (as I have mentioned earlier), and connect them with the Readings; and

2. Tackle the point of following God in the poverty of our spirit.

We notice that Jesus did not only became man; He raised the dignity of man that made him again feel that the Triuine God is pleased with him and is loving us no matter who or what we are. It was been elaborated in the Gospel last week that Peter and his fishing gang left their boats, their nets, even their miraculous catch, to follow Jesus Christ. What they saw was a concrete proof that the Messiah was in their midst. Reducing one’s self to nothing before God should be our most sharpened skill; because how would you be poor in spirit if you have not unloaded the things that are not necessary? On the First Reading, faithfulness in the Lord, as He told the prophet Jeremiah, is described like a plant, where the plant that sprouts in the desert stands for the weak faith of the person, who may die without even knowing it. This is not what we want to be, right? On the other hand, Paul emphasizes the immense love of the Father that even Christ, His Son, was given to the world to be the Savior of all. Being the Firstborn of the Dead, He defeated the power of death and limited it as the bridge between the life now and the life eternal. By dwelling in us, Christ stripped off His powers as God, and following His example, we must remove what is not needed and live poor in spirit in His love.

Leaving everything is painful, especially if it is for the sake of following what you believe in. Being poor in spirit, then, must require a contrite heart, a clear mind, and a cleansed spirit. I myself am not in this state as I write this, but I know that I should be poor in spirit so that I would understand things better. Right now, I am not inspired on continuing further, maybe just for this week, but following your Savior requires more than just leaving everything and making yourself worthy. The most essential factors that a poor in spirit must have are the belief that in material poverty comes spiritual richness, and the eagerness and determination to follow Christ no matter what.

Let me describe a cycle:

It takes a lifetime, maybe more than a lifetime, for an average marginalized man to get himself and his family out of the life they detested so much in disgust to the “noble” elite. But only a minority of them are radical that when they get rich, they would spend their luck money (because they do not get dramatically wealthy without winning a very big jackpot at the lottery) on the things they have not experienced before. And when they get into the state where they just look down to the people they left, a sudden downfall follows, making him at level with or even lower than the marginalized.

Now, how would this man get up again? Simple: Following a “slowly-but-surely” approach, he should, first and foremost, reconcile with his God and neighbor. Then, he should persuade his comrades that he wants to change himself. Here come the factors I mentioned: By reconciling with God in the state of metanoia, he has already earned spiritual wealth; by doing his very best to reconcile with his former friends, he is adding fuel to his eagerness to serve instead of being served upon.

Reader, Let me conclude that, as I said last week, metanoia only happens when a man has already done something which has haunted his conscience. With this as a support to my literature last week, I can say that turning back to God is not enough. He must also get closer and closer to Him if he wants to never go back to the sins of his past.

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