What is holding you back?

We can trust God with our concerns so that we can follow Him completely in everything that we do.

For many Catholics and Christians, it is not sin that holds us back the most from following Jesus completely.

It is our daily concerns — our jobs, our businesses, our dreams, the bills we have to pay, and our daily bread.

We are like the young man in today’s Gospel reading who observed all the commandments, yet still couldn’t follow Jesus completely.

The young man said to Jesus, “All of these commandments I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. — Matthew 19:20-22

It’s really difficult to follow Jesus completely, especially when you have a family to feed, even though God always provides. It’s difficult to let go of our jobs, our businesses, and our careers and to sell everything we have to follow Jesus completely.

But at least, we can surrender our concerns to Him so that in everything that we do, we can do completely for Him and not for anything else — not for recognition, not for the fear of losing our jobs, and not for money.

We can trust Him with our concerns so that we can follow Him completely in everything that we do.


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How do you spend your free time?

Are you deliberate in using your time or are you spending it aimlessly and without purpose?

An excerpt from today’s second reading:

Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity. — Ephesians 5:15-16

How do you spend your time, especially your free time?

We have to admit that most of us do not have total control over the time we spend at work, especially if you’re employed like I am. 

But, most of us have complete control over our free time.

Are you deliberate in using your time or are you spending it aimlessly and without purpose?

Are you making the most of your free time or are you wasting it by mindlessly browsing the internet (guilty)?

Are you using your free time to pursue your dreams, to create art, to build a business, to grow in your career, to improve yourself, or are you wasting it by scrolling endlessly through your social media newsfeed (guilty again)?

How we spend our free time may spell the difference between living our life to the fullest or remaining stuck in life.

Most importantly, while we should spend our every moment with God, our free time is what gives us the opportunity to grow even closer to Him, to know Him more, to grow in His Word and wisdom.

Knowing Him more is the best way we can spend our free time, for life comes from knowing Him more.

Let whoever is simple turn in here; To the one who lacks understanding, wisdom says, Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding. — Proverbs 9:4-6

This is also what Jesus, the Word of God and the Bread of Life, tells us in today’s Gospel:

Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. — John 6:57

We have life not only when we partake of Him in the Eucharist, but also when we feed on Him, the Word of God.

Spend your time wisely. Be purposeful and deliberate in spending your time.

 

P.S. Lately, I have been spending a lot of time on Twitter or mindlessly scrolling through it. But, today’s readings reminded me to spend more time with God, to know Him more. I’ll be reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church every night again, instead of browsing through Twitter. If I may, spend 15 minutes of your free time every night or morning reading the Bible and you’ll be able to finish it in a little over a year. That’s how I finished my Bible for the first time. If you’re commuting, you can download a Bible app or read an ebook. That’s always better than wasting time on social media.


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End the cycle

We can use our influence for righteousness, to show others a different way of solving their problems, that is, with Jesus and through Jesus.

I was listening to a podcast last week and the host shared that when Robbin Williams committed suicide, an increase in the number of suicide followed.

We all have influence. And the death of Robbin Williams probably influenced others and showed them that one of the ways to solve their problems and emptiness is by taking their own lives.

This is the same with sin. Even our personal sins can influence others to do the same. This is especially true with the influence of parents. What parents do, children often imitate, even when they grow older.

Sin often starts a cycle of more sins and of hopelessness.

But today’s first reading encourages us that we can end this cycle, that we can take responsibility over our own lives:

The word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, what is the meaning of this proverb you recite in the land of Israel: “Parents eat sour grapes, but the children’s teeth are set on edge”?
As I live—oracle of the Lord GOD: I swear that none of you will ever repeat this proverb in Israel. For all life is mine: the life of the parent is like the life of the child, both are mine. Only the one who sins shall die! — Ezekiel 18:1-5

Instead, we can use our influence for righteousness, to show others a different way of solving their problems, that is, with Jesus and through Jesus.

We can end the cycle of sin and start a new cycle of righteousness, love, and hope.


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Our secret to marriage?

Marriage is not just about our promises to each other. It is also about the promises we made in front of God’s altar. It is about our promise and our covenant with God. 

As a husband and father, one thing that I am afraid of is hurting my wife and daughter, especially by cheating on them. 

After more than a year of being married, I realized that it is indeed difficult to remain faithful. There are so many temptations out there. While I will always believe in my heart that my wife is the kindest, loveliest, and even sexiest of all, in reality, there will always be someone younger or sexier or, in the eyes of others, prettier.

It is also true that you will not really know your partner until you marry him or her. In just one year of being married, I discovered a lot of things about my wife that I didn’t know when I married her. (She also discovered a lot of things about me.) Some of them have caused little quarrels and misunderstandings.

And there are times when you take each other for granted and get the appreciation from someone else. 

I know I still don’t have the right to say that married life isn’t easy because my wife and I have been married only for more than a year. But, so far, our marriage, while it has been a fantastic one, hasn’t always been easy. 

But, somehow, despite my fears and the temptations around me, I am confident that we will always remain together. Because we took to heart that our marriage is not just about our promises to each other. It is also about the promises we made in front of God’s altar. It is about our promise and our covenant with God. 

When we hurt each other, we’re not just hurting one another. We are also hurting God. 

If we separate, we would not just be breaking our promises to each other, but also our covenant with the Father. 

And because we both came into our marriage striving to love God above all, even above one another, we don’t want to break our covenant with Him more than our covenant with each other. 

I guess that’s our secret. That we are still striving to love God above all, even above each other. 

Because our love for God reminds us of our covenants.

Because this goal of loving Him more each day gives us and our family a singular purpose that unites us. 

Because our love for God makes us want to bring each other even closer to God, and God to each other. 

I know we still have a long way to go and a lot more challenges to face in our marriage. But if we don’t lose our sights on God, I know we’ll always be together. 

Jesus said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” — Matthew 19:4-6

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What will it take?

I wonder what it will take for people to believe in God again.

We are blessed here in the Philippines because many of us still believe in God. But, in many other countries, more and more people are no longer believing in God. Worse, many Catholics and Christians are mocked for their faith, for believing in a God they cannot see.

Now, more than ever, the knowledge of people has advanced so much especially in the fields of technology and medicine. Nothing seems to be out of man’s reach. We have even found ways to conceive in unnatural ways and defy the laws of nature.

That’s why people think that they no longer need God, that He is not real, that they could do anything without God.

(But the more progress we make, the sadder and emptier people seem to become. Many people are lost or depressed or lacking purpose or direction. But that’s for another post.)

In the Bible, whenever the Israelites became comfortable in the land of milk and honey, they began to think that God is not real, that they could do everything without God, that they did not need God.

They would turn to false gods, seek their own pleasure and happiness above all, sometimes at the expense of others, and become indifferent to the sufferings of others. (Sounds familiar, right?)

But, sin always has consequences. One of these consequences is suffering. (Suffering is not a punishment from God, but the consequences of our sins.)

In today’s first reading, God told Ezekiel to prophesize about the Israelites’ exile — an exile from the promised land that would bring much pain and suffering should they continue living in sin and apostasy.

The word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, you live in the midst of a rebellious house; they have eyes to see but do not see, and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious house.
Now, son of man, during the day while they are looking on, prepare your baggage as though for exile, and again while they are looking on, migrate from where you live to another place; perhaps they will see that they are a rebellious house. — Ezekiel 12:1-3

This prohecy would come to pass as the Israelites and Jews were later exiled and scattered to Assyria and Babylon where they would suffer a great deal.

But, it was during this time of exile and suffering when they turned back to God.

And maybe this is the reason why God allows suffering in our lives — so we will turn to Him, seek Him, depend on Him, trust Him, and know that we are truly nothing without Him.

Maybe suffering is what it will take for all of us to turn to God again.

But, do we really need to wait for wars, for suffering, for climate change before we turn back to the Father and change our ways?


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