Saturday, December 24, 2005

"My Grace is Sufficient for you"

“We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8: 28)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that God did not create the world in a perfect state. He created a world that is “in a state of journeying” towards its ultimate perfection. The Catechism defines divine providence as the ‘dispositions by which God guides his creation toward this perfection: By his providence God protects and governs all things which he has made, ‘reaching mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and ordering all things well.” (CCC #302)

William Law writes that “If anyone could tell you the shortest, surest way to all happiness and perfection, he must tell you to make it a rule to yourself to thank and praise God for everything that happens to you. For it is certain that whatever seeming calamity happens to you, if you thank and praise God for it, you turn it into a blessing.”

I find the teaching on divine providence the most consoling truth in Sacred Scripture. My delays, disappointments, obstacles, handicaps, disadvantages instead of being negatives are actually my masterpieces. When I thank and praise God for these, I express my belief in God’s loving and adorable providence. Jean-Pierre Caussade, an 18th century French Jesuit who was a master on divine providence wrote: “Let us make it a habit to accept everything God’s hand offers us, and to bless him unfailingly in all things and for all things. If in this way we welcome his designs, our greatest difficulties will profit us most.” (Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “The witness of Scripture is unanimous that the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history. The sacred books powerfully affirm God’s absolute sovereignty over the course of events.” (CCC #303) When Jesus said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” Christ was affirming the power of divine providence over all circumstances.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Peter's Happy Fault

“At that moment the cock crow, and Peter remembered what Jesus had said, ‘Before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26: 26: 27)

When Christ foretold Peter’s denial, Peter did not believe the Lord. Jesus is all-knowing. He knows our past, just as he knows our future. He knows our strengths and our weaknesses. He creates our opportunities and permits our threats. So you better believe him when he tells you something. He speaks to us everyday through his word.

Jesus told Peter that the enemy had been given permission to test him. Christ has prayed for Peter. In spite of the prayer, Peter will fall. But after the fall, Peter will rise again. Peter’s experience of sin will make him stronger and more compassionate in his task of leading the other disciples and Christ’s flock. Peter could say of his sin, ‘O happy fault.’ Out of sin rose compassion; out of death rose beautiful life. The Holy Spirit says: “For those who love God, all things work together for good.” (Romans 8: 28) Yes, all things including sin!

Thank you Jesus.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Play the Prophet 2

“Then they spat in his face and hit him with their fists; others said as they struck him, play the prophet, Christ! Who hit you then? (Matthew 26: 67)

The midnight interrogation of Jesus was not a gentle process. It was a period of accounting between the Christ and Satan and the advantage was clearly the devil’s. In an irrational frenzy, everybody turned against Jesus. It was as if there was a competition to see who would deliver the deadliest blow. But Jesus had predicted his passion to the letter. He had also said somewhere else that “Those who belong to me will listen to my voice.” The crowd here does not belong to Jesus. Their reaction to the Truth was violence. They spat on his face; they hit him with their fists; they struck him as they insulted him. The evangelist recorded that Jesus was silent during this ordeal. O that I could learn the golden rule of silence during insults and persecutions!

Paul endured the same persecution. Peter urged us to be happy at such occasions. Christ warned us explicitly to be prepared for it. Two thousand years of church history has vindicated this wisdom that there can be no crown with cross, no victory without victimization and no testimony without tests. Man has yet to discover how to made omelet without breaking eggs. This is the supreme moment of test for the Christ.

What can we learn from this? Dignity and silence under trial. This is impossible without God’s grace. Many After Communion prayers say: “Lord, strengthen us by the sacrament we have received.” We receive the strength from Holy Communion to imitate Christ.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Play the Prophet

“Then they spat in his face and hit him with their fists; others said as they struck him, play the prophet, Christ! Who hit you then? (Matthew 26: 67)

The passion of the Christ begins. The reign of darkness is set in motion. The Truth becomes a blasphemy to the chief priest. Jesus is well prepared for this moment of crisis. He has prepared for this time all his life. But at Gethsemane he prepared for it intensely and proximately. This reminds me of a great word I heard in a recent parish mission: “Life is a journey and not a series of events.” Every step in this journey and every moment of this journey counts towards the final scene. This is the final act in the life of Christ. This drama started with his birth in a stable on Christmas Day. The child is the father of the man. It is as if we see the cross looming over the nativity scene.

What does all this mean for us? Every step and every moment of our life’s journey prepares us too for the final scene. If we take every step with the end in mind, we prepare well.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Unnecessary Intervention

“Put your sword back, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to my father who would promptly send more than twelve legions of angels to my defense? But then, how would the scriptures be fulfilled that say this is the way it must be?” (Matthew 26: 52-55)

Christ’s passion, death and resurrection are all in accordance with God’s plan. The intervention of Peter with a sword during the arrest of Jesus was unnecessary. The unfolding events are all in line with God’s purpose. If they are not, God will intervene himself.

What is the message in the above scripture? God’s plan, purpose and decision for the world are sacred. We must trust God’s disposal of events. The scriptures contain a record of God’s plan and purpose for the world. The plans will unfold according to the time-table set for them by God. Like Daniel, we must search the scriptures to discover God’s plan for our lives.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Keep Awake and Pray

“So you had not the strength to keep awake with me one hour? You should be awake and praying not to be put to test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26: 40 – 41)

Why were the apostles sleeping on such a unique occasion? What was the cause of their physical and emotional exhaustion? Was it just the Passover meal and the wine? It was probably an attack of the enemy. The devil chooses his point of attack very carefully. The passion of the Christ was the period of the reign of the powers of darkness.

The experience of the Christ in Gethsemane teaches us a number of lessons. Each of us must go through our own passion from time to time. Any part of our ecosystem or comfort zone may come under attack. It could well be that all the zones are under attack at the same time. What do we do when this is the case? First of all, if we are able to recognize what is happening, we have won half the battle. Jesus gave us here the effective weapon: keep awake and pray.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say on prayer: “Prayer is a vital necessity. Proof from the contrary is no less convincing: if we do not allow the Spirit to lead us, we fall back into the slavery of sin. How can the Holy Spirit be our life if our heart is far from him?

Nothing is equal to prayer; for what it impossible it makes possible, what is difficult, easy…For it is impossible, utterly impossible, for the man who prays eagerly and invokes God ceaselessly ever to sin.

Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned.” (CCC #2744)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Stricken Shepherd

“You will all lose faith in me this night, for the scripture says: I shall strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered, but after my resurrection I shall go before you to Galilee.” (Matthew 26: 31)

Jesus predicts what is going to happen to him. He knew the definite plan and foreknowledge of God to hand him over to death on the cross. The disciples were unaware of this plan. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “Jesus’ violent death was not the result of chance in an unfortunate coincidence of circumstances, but it is part of the mystery of God’s plan.” (CCC #599)

Jesus predicted his future to teach his disciples to trust him completely with their own future. He was their friend and leader for three years and he understood that the shock of his passion and death would be too much for them to bear. He knows the strengths and weaknesses of man, so he took time to prepare them for the grim events that would follow shortly. This prediction and fulfillment will form the faith of the disciples. It also forms our faith in the omniscience of Jesus. We trust him when we trust his word. We trust him when we surrender our future to his lovable and all-powerful providence.