Monday, March 1, 2010

“How great it is for us to be here”: A Statement of Temptation and Awe

Synopsis: Lk. 9:28b-36

Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.

Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying.

While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.

Homily of the Celebrant: Fr. Emmanuel “Manny” Colmenar

There are times, the priest started, that we would be standing at the crossroads—the choices that would alter our lives for good. This is what Jesus has experienced every time He prayed (should I say talking heart-to-heart with the Father); Jesus was at the crossroads, with Moses and Elijah talking about His death—the greatest manifestation of God’s unending love for us (Somehow, this is peculiar; find out why at my reaction). At every prayer, Jesus passes through a crossroad. When He started His ministry, He prayed and fasted for forty days with the devil tempting Him. When He decided who would be His Apostles and after He have fed the five thousand, Jesus prayed to the Father very solemnly, and with longevity. The crossroads the celebrant emphasized were His prayer at Mount Tabor, where He talked with His servant-prophets, Moses and Elijah, and also at His last, heart-wrenching prayer with His Father at the garden of Gethsemane. Both reminded Jesus of His purpose—to save mankind from sin and its effects.

If Jesus, being true God and true man, pray for about a quarter of a day, the priest argued, what about us? How long do we pray? One example was the priest’s prayer time. He thought that he has nothing more to do for that day. But at the middle of his contemplation, thoughts about his burden as one of the three pastors of the parish disturbed him. He then realizes that the Enemy is using this tactic just so he would not communicate with God. Discerning this, he decided not to succumb to this temptation and continue praying. The point here is that the evil forces are felt most especially when we strive to get closer to God.

Another of the homilist’s points were the realization of the sweetest rewards that would only be experienced if we accepted the hardest of trials—ang pagtingin sa Krus bilang magandang halimbawa ng pagtitiis sa kabila ng pagpapasakit.

If we chose to suffer, we deny ourselves, and in turn, bring happiness to God and neighbor. Whenever we listen to His voice, He makes His presence felt, just as we feel Him as we carry our crosses, which is our source of grace.

One final example of this point is related to intimate relationships that lasts a lifetime. We do not grow tired f it if we love someone. This is what God wants us to feel—that He is never tired of loving us—hindi naiinip o nagsasawa. We should fell the same. Closing his homily, the priest emphasized that prayer is not a burden, but it is a way of encouragement in facing and defeating temptations and as an offering to the Lord.


“How great it is for us to be here”: A Statement of Temptation and Awe

Every time I encounter the verse “How great it is for us to be here…,” I remember my high school retreat when I was an outgoing senior. Our place of contemplation, Don Bosco Batulao, in Nasugbu, Batangas, was a very peaceful site; overlooking the so-called “Mountain of Salvation”, Mt. Batulao. Why do I feel nostalgic whenever I see that verse, which I never encountered for the longest time since then? Not only am I reminded of the Lord’s presence every time I contemplate, and, like Peter, have no idea of how beautiful was the situation I am.

For this week, I would make four points concerning the Gospel:

1. A supplementary of the homily;

2. How prayer presides over choices;

3. Why what Peter said was a cloaked temptation; and

4. So what if he said it.

The homily was all about crossroads, crosses, and prayers. We bear crosses in our pilgrimage to Heaven, and along the way, we come across diversions that would lead to God and to evil. If we continue to follow Him, no problem at all. If we choose not to follow Him, that would be the problem. No one wants that. Even announcing someone’s death; this was featured in the Gospel. Luckily, some of these roads have detours that would lead us back to the Way of Life. Through prayer, we may ease the carrying of our crosses, and in due time, we would not be carrying it further in Paradise.

Now, how does prayer preside over the choices we make? When we feel that there is something wrong, or that we feel anxious, confused, or we are losing hope, what do we do? We pray, right? We pray hat our decisions be for our benefit, and more likely, for the benefit of those we love. In short, we spontaneously ask the Lord for His guidance in the choices we make. All of the Church’s decisions—from promulgating an ordinance, to the clarifications and correct teachings of dogmas and doctrines, even to electing the successor of a deceased Pope—all of these became possible because the apostolic successors (the Pope, the cardinals, and the bishops) prayed very hard to the Holy Spirit for inspiration. And the rest is history.

Why, in the first place, did Peter said “How great it is for us to be here” (which is another version of the verse “Master, it is good that we are here”)? Of course, because of awe, Peter was amazed of Jesus’ glimpse of glory that he would want to stay there. But the Lord insisted otherwise for He has to fulfill His mission before the world may see His glory; thus, the reminder not to tell anyone what happened before He was put to death and rose again. There are things that we should not know for the moment so that we may fully appreciate it when the time comes for us to know so. Also, the reason for this is that because we would misunderstand the meaning that we take advantage of it: A temptation cloaked in human desire; a lion in sheep’s clothing. I myself want to know the things that made me curious about, though not at the right place and at the right time. This is what Peter, James, and John experienced.

Lastly, to substantiate further what I wrote on the previous paragraph, God wants us to understand first ourselves before we search for what fascinates us—that everyone should learn the basics first before stepping to the advanced, or going back to zero when we forgot the basics. Each Catholic must know first how to love and why do we have to pray before we go to the next level. Prayer, then, must be the fundamental communication with the Father, with the Son as the Medium, and the Holy Spirit as inspiration. Whether in awe or in sinfulness, therefore, we should not forget to praise and thank Him for His mercy and love.

Now, we may say that whenever we want to feel His greatness in our midst, it is fitting and proper to say: “Lord, how great it is for us to be here!”

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