Sunday, September 17, 2017

Forgiveness--the road to peace

RWS 773 September 17, 2017, 24rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel: Matthew 18: 21-35
“…how often must I forgive?... Jesus answered, Í say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.’”

Christian forgiveness
By Bishop Precioso D. Cantillas, SDB, DD
            What is the difference between Christian forgiveness and other kinds of forgiveness? For one, it is given so many times to the same offender, “seventy-seven times”, if one takes literally what Jesus said. Secondly, from what Jesus did, dying on the Cross forgiving everyone, He teaches a forgiveness which no human can give, but, which only God, the divine, can give. For any human to forgive as God does, he must be one with the Divine, fully imbued with God’s Spirit. Jesus makes this possible to anyone who believes in Him and accepts Him totally in life.
            Situations in our life that need forgiveness of others challenge us to be simply human in forgiving, or to be divine. Our daily activities, including our work, could often times fill our life with overwhelming human considerations which could limit our feelings of forgiveness to others. We find it difficult to let go of a mistake of our co-workers when we know that it is done with no valid and/or reasonable excuses. We would give at most two warnings to offending subordinates, who will surely get the sanctions on the third offence. Mostly at the workplace, only a slight margin of error is allowed, if an error is at all considered. Work performance and the corresponding rewards or compensation is measured also according to incidences of failures—the fewer, the better. Human, material and monetary considerations are the important determinants for judging and giving the corresponding measure for error, failure or offense. When a worker hurts the other or the company, through his performance or his attitudes and behavior, he is considered a liability which has to be taken away. Christian forgiveness is a financial liability in business; but it is a value that everyone needs to acquire in life.

Forgiving—the door to His peace
By Teresa R. Tunay, OCDS

      Sometimes a person cannot forgive even once, so how can he be persuaded to forgive as many as 77 times?  And yet, our Lord asks for no less.  Why so strict, people ask.  Forgiveness seems to be getting too obsolete a value nowadays. When it’s considered cool to get even, people who prefer to follow Christ and forgive are seen as weaklings.  “They have no choice but to forgive because they can’t fight,” they are unfairly judged.
            In one workplace alone, two women sit side by side but their attitudes towards personal offenses are at the opposite end of the pole.  Merlyn cannot forgive the father of her granddaughter for abandoning her daughter in her pregnancy; even though she finds so much joy in her apo, she cannot forgive and accept its “stupid father”.  On the other hand, there’s Carla whose husband of 25 years ran away with a woman younger than their firstborn—and yet Carla forgives him and makes peace with her husband’s second family.  The irony of it is, both women are devout churchgoers, so how come one can forgive while the other can not?
            The reason behind the difference in outlook may be a mystery to their co-workers but one thing the latter are sure of is: Carla is easier to work with than Merlyn.  Which leads us to the thought that when the Lord asks us to forgive not just seven but 77 times, He is actually opening the door for us to His peace—that lightness of being that overcomes a person who, humbled by God’s love, has discovered how easy it is to forgive.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Gathered in Jesus' name

RWS 772 September 10, 2017, 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel: Matthew 18: 15-20
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Presence of Jesus
By Bishop Precioso D. Cantillas, SDB, DD

      The Catholic faith teaches about the many forms of Jesus’ presence on earth among His believers. Jesus who is the Son of God, who became man, died and was buried, rose to new life, then ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. Among the ways, according to Jesus’ words, that He is present among us, human beings is when and “where two or three are gathered in” His name. It is therefore consoling and saving for us to make all the effort to make our gatherings in such a way that Jesus would be in our midst.
      Our daily work, for many would bring people together. While the job, and tasks at hand are the immediate reason for our being gathered in a work place or in a situation to togetherness, an additional reason, that which Jesus suggests, could make our working together an occasion for Jesus to be in our midst. We have to gather and work “in His name”, which could mean that as we do our work, we have a life faith in Jesus. We see the events in our life, including our performance of our work as our personal and intimate relationship with Jesus.         
      Working in Christ’s name could mean that the worker considers his work as a participation in the mission of Christ, which is to give life to the world and all humanity. When the worker is so filled with Jesus in his mind, heart, and actions then Jesus is alive in him, and the gathering of such workers is the presence of Jesus, truly alive in the work place. Workers with a positive attitude on everything make Jesus alive in the world. 

Gathered in His name
By Teresa R. Tunay, OCDS

      It is a beautiful promise Jesus makes in this statement: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”  I used to work in a place run by a pious family who made sure the employees started the week right by gathering everybody in prayer first thing on Monday morning, much like government employees holding a flag ceremony.  I’d  say that office was probably better than a typical government office—at least we didn’t eat and gossip right at our work stations during office hours; we were nice to one another and the atmosphere was generally pleasant.  But it wasn’t Paradise. Even though Management thought we were all “gathered together in His name”, there would be squabbling, envy, intrigues (affecting those in luscious positions), misuse of funds by finance officers, etc.
      Jesus’ promise doesn’t automatically assure us of His presence in our midst.  The Lord won’t magically pop up before us simply because we end all our prayers with “In the Most Holy Name of Jesus, amen!”  Coming together in His name also means striving to know who is the Person behind the name—Jesus.  Away from others, in our solitude, we ponder: what did this Jesus do for us, how did He live His life on earth, why does He want us to welcome Him in our midst, who is He to me, and what does He want of me?
      Welcoming Jesus thus in the depths of our being leads us to an intimate “connection” with the Lord, a friendship that lights our way in following our Master, so that it is with absolute trust in His Way that we come with others to gather in His name.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

'Turo-turo' Christianity

RWS 771 September 3, 201722nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel: Matthew 16: 21-27
“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever
loses his life for my sake will find it.”

For Christ’s sake
By Bishop Precioso D. Cantillas, SDB, DD

            Every day of our life here on earth is a step towards our grave, the place where we will have lost our life. We may not think of the losing this aspect of life at the end while we go about our daily routine of activities. We focus more on the life at hand and enjoy what the present brings us. Yet, it would also be reasonable and in order to foresee the end, whether we find a new beginning, a new life. Jesus, who went through death and also rose to new life, proclaims that one who loses his life for His sake, will find it. This word of Jesus is worth believing and living.
            Our daily work and activities drain us of life eventually. It is good to ask ourselves what we lose our life for; why we work and how we spend our energy and strength. Self-preservation and maintenance of our life are the most obvious reasons for toiling; providing for the needs of one’s family and loved ones is also a very human motive for working. Self-fulfilment is considered a higher motivation for work than simply survival and satisfaction of physical needs. Yet a higher ideal, one which reaches up to the highest being, God, could provide a most valuable reason for working and consuming one’s life and energy. Working for Christ’s sake is the key to gaining new life after dying. Spending one’s talents and skills on one’s job for the praise and worship of God whom the worker accepts as Lord of his life, gives an added significance to one’s toil, and would provide a greater satisfaction for the worker also after his life here on earth.

 ‘Turo-turo Christians’
By Teresa R. Tunay, OCDS

            It’s common to have a “turo-turo” canteen in our workplace where we can daily choose and point out the dishes we want to eat for the day.  We usually take those that appeal to our taste, often disregarding what’s healthy for us. When it comes to the precepts that Jesus has given us to guide our lives, we cannot be so-called “cafeteria Christians”—we cannot “make turo-turo” and say “I believe in Jesus but I’m sure He will understand that I want to follow this rule, I don’t want to follow that one.” 
      There’s no such thing as part-time followers of Jesus; when we consent to becoming His disciples, we must go with Him all the way.  Because what Jesus wants of us is to love, to love as He loves.  Just as Jesus in His time on earth willed to carry His cross and give up His life for others, so must we.  If we cling to what we hold dear—those that give us pleasure or honor, everything from food to clothing to relationships to recreation that we work very hard for in order to enjoy life—but reject the love that Jesus wants to share with us, we will end up losing life itself. 
      Being an honest to goodness follower of Jesus means trusting His leadership, believing that while He asks us to pick up our cross daily and follow Him instead of immersing ourselves in what gives us gain and worldly benefit, He will also always be there as we experience difficulties and sufferings in life with Him. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The keys to the Kingdom

+ RWS 770 August 27, 2017, 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel: Matthew 16: 13-20
“…I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven…”

Going to heaven
By Bishop Precioso D. Cantillas, SDB, DD

      Among the words Jesus spoke to Peter were about the “keys to the kingdom of heaven”, which could bring us to understand man’s need to go to heaven and what is necessary to get there. The human being is created by God to enjoy His life and love for all eternity. When man, through a choice he makes, turns away from God through sin—a disobedience to the Creator’s will—he continues to long for the life and happiness in heaven. Through God’s mercy and love, man could go back to heaven through Jesus, with Him and in Him. Anyone who wishes to go to heaven, has to unite himself with Jesus, and in the means and manner that Jesus has established. The means for man’s salvation, for man’s going to heaven have been entrusted by Jesus to Peter and the Church established on him.
      One’s union with Christ through the Church and the Sacraments needs to be lived every day in one’s life. Being united with Christ is done not only through the spiritual acts of prayer, praise and worship of God in designated sacred places, like churches, altars and sanctuaries; one can and should be united with Jesus in his daily works and activities. Jesus’ life on earth—his work/mission of proclaiming the truths and teachings of God’s kingdom, his works of curing the sick and other services for the hungry and the poor, the suffering and death He went through in obedience to the will of the Father—brought Him the resurrection and the glory with the Father in heaven.  This daily life and work of Jesus is also the pattern with which anyone united with Him goes through his daily life, which will also earn for him the rewards of heaven.

The keys to the Kingdom
By Teresa R. Tunay, OCDS

      You may have noticed that during Holy Week procession, the statue of St. Peter comes with a rooster and a bunch of keys usually hanging from his belt.  The rooster is there to remind us of his denial—the cock crowed three times, remember?  And the keys—symbolic of his being the gatekeeper.  It is said that in the olden days, when one desires to see the king, a servant who holds the key opens the palace door, and then assists the guest in reaching the king’s court. Now, with so many interpretations of the “keys to… heaven”, it’s okay I guess to add one more that anyone can easily understand.
      In addition to what the bishop has stated above are practical “keys”, such as Faith—faith in “servant” who can lead us to His kingdom, and in the teachings of the Church Jesus Himself established.  Next, Hope—that which we hold on to when we seem to be lost and burdened, when things do not go the way we want them to; hope that our King will hear our pleas.  Then, Love—love as the main reason for our existence, the only value that will give us a foretaste of heaven on earth and will assure us of eternal life.  There are many other “keys”, such as  simplicity, temperance, fortitude, patience, etc. but as the scriptures say, “the greatest of these is love”.  It is because of love that God gave us life, and the knowledge that God loves us empowers us to pass love on to others, and by so doing—being the channels of Jesus’s love to mankind—the very same love will open His Kingdom’s gate for us, and see us through to an eternity of love with God.   

Sunday, August 20, 2017

'Woman, great is your faith!'

+ RWS 769, August 20, 2017, 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel: Matthew 15:21-28
Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish.”

Having great faith
By Bishop Precioso D. Cantillas, SDB, DD

      Having a great faith does not only drive away doubts in our minds and hearts which could make our life and work uncertain, but, it also makes us feel secure about our being, gives us the sense of power and makes us efficient and effective in every act we do. Faith, essentially, is being certain of something not on the grounds of one’s reason and comprehension of the thing believed, but on the authority of someone acknowledged as superior to the believer.  Faith, they say, is like a leap in the dark, a decision to act when there are no reasonable arguments for it other than the assurance of an authority. Having faith does not diminish the value and dignity of the human reason, rather, it provides the person with a higher level of truth and reality that would somehow complete and perfect human reasoning. In simple words, faith is like what the woman in the gospel did, sure and insistent that Jesus would cure her sick daughter.
      Anyone could have a great faith. He/she needs to accept the truth and fact that God is the Lord, and we are simply His creatures; that this loving God wants to save everyone from total destruction. What one needs to do is simply call on God, accept Him as Lord of his life and trust in His words and worship and serve Him in love. This is done concretely by becoming a faithful member in the Church that God has established on earth through Jesus and His apostles and the Sacraments offered by this Church. Moreover, the believer lives and acts in accordance with the life and teaching of Jesus and His Church in his daily works and activities, assuring him of salvation.

Faith’s reward
By Teresa R. Tunay, OCDS

      One of the reasons Mrs. Perfidia works so hard is she wants to buy a new car.  “Samahan mo ng tamang dasal para mas madali mong makuha ang gusto mo,” said her close friend, Mrs. Aviar, a bible-believing matron who seems to have found the perfect formula for making God listen to her prayers.  Mrs. A added that Mrs. P should “have faith” and describe what she is praying for—if it’s a car, state the exact color (not just “blue” but sky blue, cobalt blue, electric blue, whatever), the brand and model, etc.—and then “claim it”, as if it’s already hers.
      If it’s the way to get what we want, why must we drag in God into the picture, equating prayer with talking to a car salesman?  What kind of faith is that which goads us on to merely acquiring things to satisfy ourselves?  Even atheists or car thieves can get the car of their dreams without “praying” for it and “claiming” it. 
      The faith of the woman described in today’s gospel story is different—first, she asks not for a luxury item but for healing; second, she asks not for herself but for another person; third, she perseveres even when our Lord seems deaf to her pleas.  Sometimes, in our ignorance, we lose our faith when God doesn’t give us what we are asking for.  But faith is tested precisely by the unavailability of the thing or the state asked for.  When we continue to believe in God, in His goodness and love for us despite His deafness and neglect of us—that is faith.  And always, it is rewarded in ways we never imagine we could ever be blessed with.