Saturday, December 10, 2005

Seek First the Kingdom

“So stay awake, because you do not know the day when your Master is coming. You may be quite sure of this that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar will come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house. Therefore, you too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24: 42-44)

The message is simple and clear: stay awake and stand ready at all times for the coming of Christ. Do not take chances. Do not take any risks at all. Avoid unnecessary distractions. You may be tempted to think: but I must work to put bread on the table. I must get married or give my daughter in marriage. I have responsibilities that cannot wait.

But Jesus replies to the above argument: “That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat…. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Set your heart on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well.” (Matthew 6: 25 – 34)

Friday, December 09, 2005

Signs of the times

“Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. So with you when you see all these things; know that he is near, at the very gates. I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all these things will have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. But as for that day and hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, no one but the Father only.” (Matthew 24: 32-36)

What are the signs of the tines today? Wars and rumors of wars. Acceptance of gay culture everywhere. Challenge of Church authority. Few vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Diminishing Mass attendance on Sundays. Failure to keep the Lord’s Day holy. Increasing number of divorces and breakdown in family life. Failure to keep sacred vows made to God. These are some of the signs of the times. These are signs that the hearts of men are growing cold. The word of God helps us to match its prophecies and predictions with what we observe around us. We pray and are vigilant so that we can recognize these signs.

Lord, explain your words to us and grant us faith in your word.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Watch and Pray

“And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven; then too all the people of the earth will beat their breasts; and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet to gather his chosen from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24: 30 – 31)

When Christ came the first time, it was in a humble and dependent state. When he comes the second time, it will be in great glory and power. When will Christ come to gather the chosen from the four corners of the earth? Nobody knows. When will he come to gather me up? It may happen sooner rather than later.

My life today should be a preparation for the coming of Christ to take me home. How do I prepare for this imminent event? I prepare by prayer. “Watch and pray for you do not know the hour.” I prepare also by the study of the word of God. I prepare by doing the work that Christ has given me to do today.

Lord Jesus, I thank you for your word today. As I wait for your coming to take me home, teach me to listen to your word today and obey it.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

False Prophets

“If anyone says to you then, ‘Look, here is the Christ’ or, ‘He is there, do not believe it; for false Christs and false prophets will arise and produce great signs and portents, enough to deceive even the chosen, if that were possible.” (Matthew 24: 23 – 25)

This is a bleak warning about the end-time period. When the world starts to unravel, people will be desperate looking for any means to save themselves. This period of uncertainty and desperation will be favorable in producing false prophets. What is most astonishing about this warning by Jesus is that he foretells that the false prophets will work great signs and miracles. Many will be deceived by this. Even the chosen will be disconcerted by this phenomenon. But because the chosen had long been anchored on God’s word, they will not be deceived.

How will the faithful be able to undress the false prophets? Christ taught that “By their fruits we shall know them.” The true Christians will look for the fruits of the Spirit among the false prophets. Are they patient? How do they handle delays, disappointments and obstacles? How do they cope with suffering? The false prophets will fail these tests.

Lord Jesus, grant your people the gift of discernment of spirits, so that we can discern the false and the genuine.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

God is our sure defense

“For you are a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in distress; shelter from the rain, shade from the heat. As with the cold rain, as with the desert heat, even so you quell the uproar of the wanton.” (Isaiah 25: 4-5)

God is the same today, yesterday and forever. He is always the God of hope, mercy and deliverance. What Isaiah recorded many centuries ago remain true today. God is very close to us in all our trials, troubles and temptations. “God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress.” (Psalm 46:1)

Why does the love o f God allow us to pass through so much distress and affliction?
“My son, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, undisturbed in time of adversity. Cling to him, forsake him not; thus will your future be great. Accept whatever befalls you, in crushing misfortune be patient; for in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation.(Sirach 2: 1 -5) God’s adorable and loving providence trains us and saves us through suffering. Without Good Friday, there would be no joy of Easter. Without tests, no material for testimony.

God allows his beloved to go through suffering, distress and crisis because these have redemptive value for his us. Our salvation is secured through suffering. We become strong and courageous like real sons. Christ Jesus gave us the example.

We know that God’s love is embracing us moment by moment even in the midst of distress and affliction. Because God is with us every moment, loving and protecting us, nothing can go wrong, appearances notwithstanding. This is a basic and formidable truth. But how can we prove it? God’s word says so. Romans 8:28.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Error of Appearances

“My God, my God, why have you deserted me?” (Matthew 27: 47)

On Good Friday, Christ gave up himself freely to die on the cross for us. In the above scripture, he uses Psalm 22 to pray. Many of the bystanders looking at him believed him deserted by God. But that is the illusion. That is the evidence of the senses, the error of appearances.

Jesus prepared adequately in the Garden of Gethsemane for this ordeal. He left the garden assured that God was on his side.

We learn from this to prepare for our own hour of ordeal through constant prayer. Prayer helps us not to doubt God’s constant protection by looking at appearances. God is always there protecting us moment by moment.

Like Job, we too can understand the meaning of suffering through faith. For the carnal man, suffering is disaster, pure catastrophe. But for the faithful, the cross is the route to supreme victory. God is always a good God.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Warning is for Now!

“Then they will hand you over to be tortured and be put to death; and you will be hated by all the nations on account of my name. And many will fall away; men will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise; they will deceive many, and with the increase of lawlessness, love in most men will grow cold; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24: 9 – 14)

This is a grim warning to the apostles of what will come. Much hardship, falsehood and lawlessness will put faith to a severe test. Only the solidly prepared can survive. It is the word of God which is alive in the heart of the heart of the Christian that will give him the strength to stand firm. “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)

We have heard the warning. We have received the encouragement. Prepare therefore yourself and be always ready. Arm yourself with the word of God, the sword of the spirit. Look at the condition in society today and you will see for yourself that the warning is for Now. Pray at all times so that events will not take you unawares.