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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Throughout her life, Mary could be described in two words: obedient and humble.

Mary was obedient to everything God had spoken to her through an angel, in spite of the possible consequences of Joseph’s divorcing her and being accused of adultery and stoned to death.

Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word. — Luke 1:38

Mary never took pride in being the mother of the Lord. Instead, she always gave the praise and glory to the Father.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. — Luke 1:46-49

Finally, Mary never pointed anyone to herself, to her blessedness. Instead, she always led others to the mercy and kindness of Jesus — from the Marian apparitions to one of her words in the Bible:

The mother of Jesus said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” — John 2:5

Mary was never about honoring herself. She was always about revealing the kindness and faithfulness of the Father and of the Son. Through Mary, we know more about the love and mercy of Jesus.

Today, as we commemorate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, let us remember to follow the example of Mary — obedient, faithful, humble, and completely trusting in God.

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Are you hungry?

An excerpt from today’s first reading:

Son of man, he said to me, feed your stomach and fill your belly with this scroll I am giving you. I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. — Ezekiel 3:3

Do you, sometimes, feel apathetic or lethargic without knowing why? Do you sometimes feel lifeless or unenthusiastic about anything? You don’t really feel sad or upset. You just feel empty inside.

Sometimes, I do.

Maybe it’s because we haven’t been feeding our souls with the word and the love of God.

It is the only thing that satisfies the hunger of our souls. It is the food that gives life in this world and life everlasting.

Jesus, the Word became flesh, is the Word of God, the Bread of Life. If we partake of Him, we’ll never go hungry or lifeless again.

It is as sweet as honey to our mouths and our souls.

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Citizens of heaven

Today’s Gospel reading:

When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”
“Yes,” he said. When he came into the house, before he had time to speak, Jesus asked him, “What is your opinion, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take tolls or census tax? From their subjects or from foreigners?”
When he said, “From foreigners,” Jesus said to him, “Then the subjects are exempt. But that we may not offend them, go to the sea, drop in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. Open its mouth and you will find a coin worth twice the temple tax. Give that to them for me and for you.” — Matthew 17:24-27

The Greek word used for “subjects” was originally translated as “sons.” As the Son of God, Jesus was exempted from paying the temple tax. The same goes for His disciples who were also children of God.

Yet, Jesus paid the temple tax in order to follow the Mosaic Law, which according to many Bible scholars was the basis of the payment of the temple tax. Even if His citizenship was of heaven, He was faithful to His earthly obligations.

As Catholics and Christians, we are called to remain faithful — both to our eternal and earthly obligations. While Jesus is our Lord and our citizenship is of heaven, we are still required to follow earthly rules and authorities (as long as they are not contrary to the natural law and to the commandments of God).

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A remedy for emptiness

The Bread of Life does not just give us eternal life, but also life in this world. Only through Him and with Him can we feel and be truly alive.

There are so many things that we are chasing in life — income or investment goals, financial success, job security, business success, beauty, travel, recognition, art.

Sometimes, we chase these things in the hope of feeling alive.

When we do reach a goal, we often get disappointed because we realize that it does not change our lives.

Sure, it can make our lives more comfortable. Sure, it may give us a moment of fulfillment or satisfaction. But, oftentimes, it does not change who we are or fill the emptiness many of us are feeling.

I thought reaching a higher level of income would fill some of the emptiness that I feel from time to time. But when I reached it, I realized that it doesn’t. There’s just the same old routine of waking up and working. There’s just the next income level to chase.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus reminds us of the only thing that can give us life — Himself:

I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. — John 6:51

Only God’s love can fill the void that many of us are feeling. Only Jesus can fill our emptiness.

No matter how successful we become, no matter how comfortable our lives become, there is no meaning or purpose without Jesus.

The Bread of Life does not just give us eternal life, but also life in this world. Only through Him and with Him can we feel and be truly alive.

Are you chasing the things you are chasing to feel alive for a few moments?

Go to Jesus and receive the life that comes from Him.

As Catholics, we are blessed that we can receive the Eucharist, in which the true presence of Christ is. Through the Eucharist, we receive Him not only symbolically, but also literally. Through the Eucharist, we receive life. 

Are you feeling empty?

Receive Jesus, the Living Bread, and the life that comes from Him today.

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