In prayer, in tears

An excerpt from today’s first reading:

“In those days, when Hezekiah was mortally ill, the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz, came and said to him: ’Thus says the LORD: Put your house in order, for you are about to die; you shall not recover.’ Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD:
“‘O LORD, remember how faithfully and wholeheartedly I conducted myself in your presence, doing what was pleasing to you!’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
“Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: ‘Go, tell Hezekiah: Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. Now I will add fifteen years to your life.’ — Isaiah 38:1-5

How many times have we found in tears while we are in prayer — maybe because of frustration, desperation, or hopelessness — with no one or nothing else to turn to but God?

But today, God reminds us that He hears us and He sees and keeps our every tear.

“My wanderings you have noted; are my tears not stored in your flask, recorded in your book?” — Psalm 56:9

Are you in tears? God sees you. He is there to comfort you.

Come to Him in prayer. Come to Him in tears.

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Following Jesus simplified

Following Jesus requires sacrifice and even dying to ourselves. But, it is not as complex as we make it to be. We simply have to love genuinely.

During the time of Jesus, the pharisees and the scribes made it difficult and burdensome for people to follow God.

They were too legalistic and valued rituals and traditions over people and individuals. That is why Jesus reproached them when He said:

“Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.” — Luke 11:46

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus revealed how it truly is to follow God:

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.” — Matthew 11:28-29

Jesus simplified the law and prophet. He simplified religion into loving God and our neighbors. He simplified what it means to follow God.

He lifted up the heavy burdens that we think we should carry in order to follow God.

Sure, following Jesus still requires sacrifice and even dying to ourselves. But, it is not as complex as we make it to be. We simply have to love genuinely.

And by following Him, we also find joy, love, peace, meaning, and even rest that nothing or nobody else can give.

Find your joy in following Jesus.

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Childlike faith

How does a child believe?

A child believes with wonder, believing in every possibility.

A child believes with abandon, with unwavering confidence, with trust.

A child believes with his heart, not just with reason.

A child believes not blindly, but with hope.

A child believes with humility, unstained by the arrogance brought upon by having knowledge (or, at least, what the world thinks is knowledge). 

This is the kind of belief that Jesus calls us to have:

“At that time Jesus said in reply, ‘I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.’” — Matthew 11:25

Do you have childlike faith in God? In your dreams?

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Remembering what God has done for us

Faithfulness is not just about believing to receive the blessings of God. It is, more importantly, about remembering what God has done for us, especially in times of trials.

What has God done for you?

There were many times when God answered our prayers. Maybe He gave healing to a loved one, kept us safe during a travel or plane ride, or helped us go through an ordeal.

But when the challenges come our way, or when our hearts become filled with doubts, we often forget what He has done for us.

This was also probably the case for the people in Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, where Jesus performed His mighty deeds:

“Then [Jesus] began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented.” — Matthew 11:20

They witnessed the mighty deeds of Jesus and received His healing, yet they failed to repent and believe in Him as the Messiah.

Throughout salvation history, the men who remained faithful to God like Moses were those who recounted what God had done for them, especially during times of trials and difficulties.

Near the end of days, Moses recounted to Israel what God had done for them:

“Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, You have seen with your own eyes all that the LORD did in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and all his servants and to all his land, the great testings your own eyes have seen, and those great signs and wonders.
“But the LORD has not given you a heart to understand, or eyes to see, or ears to hear until this day.
“I led you for forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes did not fall from you in tatters nor your sandals from your feet;
“It was not bread that you ate, nor wine or beer that you drank—so that you might know that I, the LORD, am your God.
“When you came to this place, Sihon, king of Heshbon, and Og, king of Bashan, came out to engage us in battle, but we defeated them and took their land, and gave it as a heritage to the Reubenites, Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh.
“Observe carefully the words of this covenant, therefore, in order that you may succeed in whatever you do.” — Deuteronomy 29:1-8

Faithfulness is not just about believing to receive the blessings of God. It is, more importantly, about remembering what God has done for us, especially in times of trials.

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Traditions, rituals, and love

Traditions and rituals are important for through them, the love of the invisible God becomes visible.

For instance, the Sacrament of Reconciliation makes it easier for us to understand how freely God gives His forgiveness. 

The Sacrament of Baptism helps us see how God calls us and welcomes us into His family.

The Eucharist, while being the true presence of Jesus, also reminds us in a visual way of how our Savior gave Himself for our salvation because of His love for us.

But sometimes, we focus too much on the actions and the motions that we lose the meaning of our Sacraments, traditions, and rituals.

Worse, we may participate in our traditions and rituals and sacraments, but fail to acknowledge our sins, to repent, and to love others.

This is what God reminded the kingdom of Israel through the prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading:

“What care I for the number of your sacrifices? says the LORD. I have had enough of whole-burnt rams and fat of fatlings; In the blood of calves, lambs and goats I find no pleasure.

“Though you pray the more, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood! Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.” — Isaiah 1:11,16-17

Yes, our traditions, rituals, and sacraments are important. But the meaning behind them are even more so — that God loves us and, because of His love, we should also love and care for others.

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