July 29, 2010

3 Things St.Martha Teaches Lukewarm Catholics

Today being the memorial of St.Martha, the gospel reading at Mass gives us one of two famous Martha scenes.


Luke 10:38-42 gives us the kitchen scene, where Martha the busybody whines about not getting any help from Mary who sits at Jesus' feet. The Lord Jesus tells her:

"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."

The other gospel reading (depending on which one your parish priest chose for Mass today) is John 11:19-27 where Martha displays the blossoming of her faith when Jesus arrives four days after Lazarus has died. Instead of getting mad at his lateness, Martha displays the strength of her belief in Christ when she says:

"Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world."

What happened in between, you might ask? What caused the change?

Martha Listened to the Lord's Advice for Her

First off, she listened to what Jesus told her. She didn't just let it go in one ear and out the other.

If your boss tells you you're doing something wrong, you'd immediately work to correct it right? Well, in the kitchen scene, Martha was scolded by her Lord for being anxious about many things. Did she sit on that info and postpone acting on it? I'd venture to say she took it as a wake up call to stop being overly busy with all the things of the world (cooking, eating) and start prioritizing the things of God (praying, learning) and being closer to the Lord. But she'd never have re-evaluated her outlook had she not listened intently to what Jesus was telling her.

Martha Prioritized "BE" Before "DO"

You can tell she loves being busy -- cooking, feeding, serving. But after Jesus' words, she obviously realized there was a need for her to first BE a faithful, faith-filled follower of the Lord and not simply concentrate on DOING the work.

Too many of us are busy doing the Lord's work when our hearts are not purified, when we remain in mortal sin, when we shun the confessional and the sacraments. By doing so, we do the work relying on our own strength and our own flesh instead of being a pure, faithful follower who relies on God's grace. We DO instead of BE. No wonder we get so stressed out and ineffective at our ministries.

Martha Believed Christ had the Power to Raise the Dead

Her brother had died four days before. Jesus arrived late. She told him that had he been there, Lazarus may not have died. But note: she didn't wail, she didn't whine or wallow in self pity. She wasn't even angry or bitter. She merely stated a fact that her faith led her to believe -- if Jesus asked God to revive Lazarus, it would be done.

"But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you."

What faith! What strong convictions! And yet, as Christians and Catholics, do we have the strength of Martha's beliefs and love for God? How many of us live our lives only half-believing in the Lord's power to work miracles? We do not have because we do not ask. And sometimes even if we ask, we don't believe it will be given. (See James 1:6 "But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.")

St.Martha, pray for us!
That we may first BE faith-filled followers of Jesus before we DO all the works that fill our days.
That we listen closely to what the Lord is calling us to do.
That we may rely wholly on the Lord's strength and power to do His work.

Martha Was Too Busy To Hear The Need

July 28, 2010

Christians Today Should Bring Forth the Precious Without the Vile

Today's first reading at Mass contains a poignant verse from Jeremiah 15:19 (NAB)

Thus the LORD answered me: If you repent, so that I restore you, in my presence you shall stand; If you bring forth the precious without the vile, you shall be my mouthpiece. Then it shall be they who turn to you, and you shall not turn to them;

Jeremiah. Photo of a mosaic by Sacred Destinations on Flickr.

Jeremiah. Photo of a mosaic by Sacred Destinations on Flickr.

I was struck by the wording: Precious versus vile. Pure versus disgusting. Repentant sinner versus proud, audacious sinner.

Once again, the reality of being used as an instrument by the Lord hit me. God was telling Jeremiah to clean up his act -- to repent and stay pure -- so that the prophet could become effective in his ministry.

It's the same challenge given to Christians today. Turn to Him! Turn away from the vile!

Why? He can't use someone who hasn't turned away from sin, or someone who hasn't been restored into a loving relationship with his creator, or someone who decidedly chooses to abandon the Lord's presence because of sin.

He can only use someone who chooses the precious, the pure, the holy over the vile at any given moment. Someone who makes a conscious decision to eschew the vulgarity of the modern world in favor of the holiness of God's word and His sacraments.

Someone who chooses NOT to use curse words and instead chooses to praise God through good times and trials, just like Job.

Someone who chooses NOT to watch lewd television shows and instead chooses to read the word of God.

Someone who chooses to pray for those in need, to do acts of charity, to forebear insults, to accept persecution with joy, to fast from pride.

May we learn to revile the vulgarity around us and instead cling to the Lord for our sustenance and power so that, like Jeremiah, we may work to bring about God's kingdom.

5 Reasons Why I Go to Daily Mass
Are we usable instruments in the hand of God?

February 24, 2010

Are we usable instruments in the hand of God?

We threw out toothbrushes the other night, partly because the bristles were splayed and worn out, but mostly because they had molds growing on the bottom handle. A quick look into the cup that held the brushes gave us the culprit: stagnant water that had been there for months. Probably water that dripped down from wet toothbrushes, accumulating over a long period of time. Moldy, filthy water that contaminated anything in it, defiling these tools which we use to clean out the dirt on our teeth. Ironic how those cleaning tools were made useless once dirtied.


Are we usable instruments in the hand of God? Are we allowing ourselves to be used by the Lord to build His kingdom? Hopefully the answer is yes to both. And yet, how can we be useful if we are not holy? If we are not clean?

Leviticus 11:44
For I, the LORD, am your God; and you shall make and keep yourselves holy, because I am holy.

Psalm 15:1-2
LORD, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy mountain?
Whoever walks without blame, doing what is right, speaking truth from the heart;

The Lord will not use defiled instruments to acomplish His work. And neither will He bless you or answer your prayers if sin blackens your heart and resides in your life. Lent is a good time to return to the Lord. Step out of that filthy moldy water that has lain stagnant for ages, return to the Lord, and be used of God.

February 20, 2010

Lenten practices: not merely physical activity, but spiritual movement towards God

As Lent begins this week, another season of penance and return to the Lord is upon us. This is a time of abstinence from meat on Fridays, of fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, of ashes and sorrow for sins. It is a time given to us to concentrate on the finite-ness of our lives so we may more closely focus on the inifite life promised to us by Jesus, and on the infinite love of God the Father who waits for us prodigals to return to His arms from our wasteful and wicked living.

In this season however, be aware that actions are meaningless in and of themselves. If we abstain and fast and give to the poor without the proper attitude of love and obedience to God, then those actions mean little. The Lord has to be in it, in you, in your actions for them to be truly vibrant. If these are exercised without God's love, then they remain physical activities. God wants spiritual activity -- He wants your spirit to move twards Him.

Psalm 40: 7-9
...sacrifice and offering you do not want; but ears open to obedience you gave me. Holocausts and sin-offerings you do not require; so I said, "Here I am; your commands for me are written in the scroll. To do your will is my delight; my God, your law is in my heart!"

Ps 40:7-9 reminds us that sacrifice and offering aren't what the Lord wants. Instead, He wants ears of obedience and our availability. Hence the psalmist proclaims like Samuel, like Moses, like Mary: "Here I am!"

1 Cor 13: 3
If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:3 reminds us that giving away our things and self-mortification gives us nothing more than an empty pocket and a painful body if not done with love -- if not done for love of others and of God.

Lord, during these 40 days of Lent, allow us to give up all that does not help us turn back to you. Allow us to sacrifice these temporal things for love of you. Bless our efforts to hear your call daily and to be obedient, with ears that move our feet and hands towards Your Son.

Help us Lord not to do hollow practices with our bodies but to accomplish meaningful acts of love with our hearts -- so that what we give up, what we donate, what we fast and abstain from, may ultimately lighten our physical bodies from material baggage and allow our hearts may fly to You in love. May all this prompt us to serve You through the people around us, most especially the poor and the voiceless, the downtrodden and the persecuted.

And all these things we ask in the mighty name of Your son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,one God forever and ever, Amen.

January 28, 2010

To Be Catholic is to Defend Life with Love

2009 March for Life. Photo by John Stephen Dwyer.

For many years, the issue was academic to me. Abortion was the killing of unborn babies. The Catholic Church taught me that life begins at the moment of conception, and because I believe that the church was built by Jesus and entrusted to the care of Peter and the men who would succeed him, I believe that Church doctrine (regarding faith and morals) is true, and free of error. All based on the apostolic authority given by Christ to Peter, and in turn to all the Popes and bishops who have succeeded him. So, yes it is an evil. But no, I never thought it needed to be something I would need to stand up for.

Things change
Things change. I moved from my predominantly Catholic mother country the Philippines to California. Then in June of 2009, we had our first child after hoping and praying for a long time. Seeing my son react to my voice the minute he was out of the womb told me that he had heard me during those nights in the last trimester when I would read the Psalms to him through a barrier of flesh. The boy was alive long before he exited the womb. He was not a "potential life," but an actual life that had the same right to live as I did.

I found myself defending my stance on abortion being murder on the very public forum of Twitter. I found myself researching the topic in more detail. I found myself donning the label "pro-life" out of necessity, but also out of respect for the truth.

Sad story
My wife works as a nurse at an outpatient surgery center and as a born again Christian, has refused to be part of any abortive procedures done there. Taking her stand brought on the admiration of one of her fellow nurses who delved into the reasons why. My wife explained it was against God's commandments and encouraged her co-worker to ask her pastor. So this co-worker, a Catholic, went to her parish priest to ask whether she should do the same and refuse to take part in abortions. Her parish priest told her that if it were her work, then she should simply do her work and God would understand. When I heard this story, I shook my head in frustration.

Donning the label
These days, I realize that a true Catholic cannot stay on the sidelines. Being a genuine follower of Christ isn't simply claiming membership in an association, but rather, standing up to half-truths and lies with the light of Gospel truth. I realize that to be Catholic is to defend life -- especially the lives of those in the womb -- with love, prayer, education and activism.

I joined the virtual March For Life in Washington, listened to the speeches, edited a pro-life ad for the sidebar of my blog, talked with my officemate about abortion, got some to join the virtual march as well, posted some tweets about the event, and am now writing about it. It's not much, I know. But I am compelled by my love for Christ, and my love for my family to at least try to speak the truth about abortion when I am given the opportunity. I hope my fellow Christians get off their silent fences to do the same.

Some reference links:
Abortion: Stand up for life! pamphlet
FAQ about abortion
Testimony of Jenni Speltz, who was born from rape