Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Accusing Finger

In life we have all met them. Oh yea you know what I am talking about. I mean those who are always pointing accusing finger at others, those who apportion blames, yes those who always find fault with others. It is always their fault and never mine. They are always wrong and I am always right. It all started with our first parents, Adam and Eve. Read Genesis 3:8-13: “When they heard the sound of the Lord God moving about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. The Lord God then called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden: but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.” Then he asked, “Who told you that you were naked? You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat! The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me – she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.” The Lord God then asked the woman, “Why did you do such a thing?” The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”

There you have it! It is not your fault; it is the fault of Adam and Eve. You are justified indeed not to take blames for anything. You have a false sense of entitlement which makes it easy for you to be right at all times. It is not your fault that you cannot accept that you are ever wrong. It is not your fault that you have become a judge rather than a fellow pilgrim on this journey called life.

But can you stop and think just for a brief moment? Check back and look at your finger when you point it at others. You see, life has taught us a lesson of how wrong we may possibly be not to have observed that when you point one finger (Index finger) at someone, the thumb sometimes looks up (or points) to God while the other three are pointing directly at you. The thumb seems to agree with Ps. 130:3,4, “If you, Lord, mark our sins, Lord, who can stand? But with you is forgiveness and so you are revered.” The three fingers pointing at you, on the hand, are telling you take a look at yourself and your actions: is it really true that you are always blameless in every situation and at all times? Why not ask yourself this simple question: what did I do to provoke such reaction from the other person? Was I perhaps responsible for the reaction I got from that person? Did I behave as a true brother/sister to this person or that person in that situation? It is always good to be introspective, to really look at the man/woman in the mirror to see if I am really blameless.

David was a close friend of God. He sinned terribly against God and humanity up to the point that he did not recognize himself in the story portraying his sinfulness. When Nathan confronted him, David acknowledged his sins. In verse 13 of the second book of Samuel chapter 12, David said, “I have sinned against the Lord”. Please read the whole story in 2 Samuel 11:1-12:1-15. In his remorse, David wrote Psalm 51. In verses 5-7, David wrote, “For I know my offense; my sin is always before me. Against you alone have I sinned; I have done such evil in your sight that you are just in your sentence, blameless when you condemn. True, I was born guilty, a sinner, even as my mother conceived me.” It is only a person who examines his life daily who can admit that he/she is wrong at times. Socrates, the Greek philosopher stated clearly that, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” That is to say that we should be engaged constantly on self-examination and seek to compare ourselves to God rather than human beings. When we compare ourselves to God we discover that we are constantly in need of change and improvement; but when we compare ourselves to others, we will always be tempted to think that we are better than every other person. We find fault with everyone else because we are better than them.

Jesus Christ has strong words for us for thinking this way. Listen to him, “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye, while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first, then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye’” Mt. 7:1-5. In his universal epistle, James 4:11-12 exhorts us in these words, “Do not speak evil of one another, brothers. Whoever speaks evil of a brother or judges his brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save or to destroy. Who then are you to judge your neighbor?

There you are. Before you engage yourself in that blame game you love to play so very much, ask yourself: ‘am I really that better than everyone else?’ Don’t you think you should show some love to your brothers and sisters rather than sit in judgment over them? The golden rule puts it thus: “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you”, Mt. 7:12. As you would not want people to point accusing finger at you, do not point accusing finger at others. The world would be a better place if we could observe this simple rule.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Widow’s Mite – The poor widow’s contribution

We have often heard people talk about giving their widow’s mite to mean that they have contributed what they could for a cause. But that is not the same point made by Jesus in Luke 21:1-4. Listen to Jesus: “When he looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and he noticed a poor window putting in two small coins. He said, “I tell you truly, this poor window put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.” Why did she give from her pauperism? 

Life’s lesson has taught us that poor people are always willing to give to a cause or to others with no question asked. They give food and money to those in need more readily than others; they give without counting the cost. Point of interest: “…But she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.

We know the story of the hen and the pig. There are many versions of this story. Let me recall one of the versions published by Jacki Zehner on October 26, 2012 on her web page “A pig and a chicken were walking down the road. As they passed a church, they notice that a potluck charity breakfast was on the way. Caught up in the spirit, the pig suggested to the chicken that they each make a contribution. “Great idea!” the chicken cried. “Lets offer them ham and eggs!” “Not so fast.” “For you, that’s just a contribution, but for me, it’s a total commitment.”” This story demonstrates the total commitment of the poor widow to the contribution observed by Christ. Her giving, like that of the pig was total, she gave everything that she had. She is a good example of a sacrificial giver. She gave because she trusted God. She gave because she knew that it is better to give than receive. She gave all she had to the one who gives to all abundantly. She did not know that Christ was watching, but she knew that not giving was not an option. She also knew that she could not pretend to have nothing to give. The God who sees her heart and knows that she had given it all will not allow her to go in want. He will open for her the floodgates of heaven, and pour down blessing upon her without measure. For her sake God will forbid the locust to destroy her crop; and the vine in her field will not be barren, cf. Malachi 3:11. 

So what type of a giver are you? Do you give as a widow or the rich people? Do you give like a hen or like a pig? Giving as described here dose not have to be monetary. If you don’t have in cash you can give in time or in talent, not giving is not an option. Even children can give to God. Let me conclude with this beautiful song written in 1874 by Christopher Ruby Blackall, MD, ”The fields are all white, and the reapers are few; we children are willing, but what can we do, to work for our Lord in His harvest? Our hands are so small, and our words are so weak; we cannot teach others; how then shall we seek to work for our Lord in His harvest? We’ll work by our prayers, by the offerings we bring, by small self-denials; the least little thing, may work for our Lord in His harvest. Until by and by, as the years pass, at length we too may be reapers, and go forth in strength, to work for our Lord in His harvest.”

Friday, January 9, 2015

Why Christ prayed at all times

The Gospels relate instances of Christ praying. I wonder why the second person of the blessed Trinity prayed so much. After all He was both divine and human. John 1:10-11 states, “He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him”. But Christ was sent into the world with a specific purpose, to reconcile the world to God. John 3:16 states clearly Christ’s mission in the world, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. In John 10:10, we read, “… I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly”.  His job was cut out for him and his order was tall indeed. Little wonder why Christ had to pray at all times for the strength to fulfill his mission.

Anyone who lives and works in a foreign country away from home understands the yearning that people have about their home country. They want to know what is happening with the people they left behind. They want to call home and speak to their love ones. Life lessons would conjecture that same situation could be applied to Christ. He travelled away from heaven, his home, leaving His Father behind. Remember, He is the only son of his Father. I would guess that Christ would want to call home and check on his Father from time to time. To tell him about his mission on earth and the difficulties he encountered in carrying out his father’s will. He would need to tell God about the many sick people he met wherever he went, to tell his Father how the devil was hard at work to undermine Him. He needed his father to advice him on how to counter and overthrow the devil. I think Christ had to discuss with his father about the problems he had with the ‘holy people’, the ‘holier than thou’ who made life difficult for him; the Scribes and the Pharisees who wanted to kill him; Herod who wanted to ridicule him and all those who downplayed his good deeds among the people. He was worried about those who should have known better but did not. He was concerned about the hatred, the hypocrisy, the lack of love, the unforgiving people he had to deal with day in day out. He was bothered about all the backstabbing, the gossip, the betrayal and the disloyalty that confronted him on daily basis. Or may be He just wanted to tell his father about his day, about his joys and sadness, about his new friends, those who were assisting him in his mission. He talked to his father about the crowds, the disciples, his apostles and their characters, personalities and temperaments. He talked to his father about the many women in his life and mission. He must have talked a length about his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Sure he mentioned Mary Magdalene and how committed she was to his course. Oh Christ had to pray everyday and he prayed hard indeed.

Sometimes he prayed all night. Luke 6:12 states, “In those days he departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God.’ Mark 6:46 records, “And when he had taken leave of them, he went off to the mountain to pray”. Luke 4:42 simply says, “At daybreak, Jesus left and went to a deserted place. It is my opinion that prayer made it possible for Christ to remain focused on the work of his father. Prayer helped him not be rash in his judgment and decision-making. Because he prayed he was able to see everyone as a son and daughter of God therefore, his brothers and sisters. Since everyone is created in the image and likeness of His Father he was able to see all as a member of his family.

May be if we pray as Christ did we will begin to experience life differently, we may even begin to see people differently. We may begin to love as God loves. We may begin to forgive people and make room in our hearts for them, as we want God to forgive and make room in His heart for us.

To pray in this way means we have to fall in love with Ms. Silence, or Mr. Silence, if you please. We will have to occasionally turn off the TV, radio, IPod, our smartphones and other sources of distractions that struggle for our attention at all times. We may have to talk less in Church with others and talk more with God. Remember this, a person who talks too much and at all times is a nuisance, nay, a disaster unto self and others.  Our mountain and secret place can be anywhere we want it to be. Since our mountain and our secret place is our heart, then, we can retire there whenever we want. We can be on our mountain while in our car, bus or train going to work, at our desk at work, in the classroom or when we are taking a walk. Since prayer is the lifting up of our minds and hearts to God, this may be our best workout day and night. Let us always remember ‘to take it to the Lord in prayer’ and nothing will be too much for us to handle since we have God on our side at all times. Recall the words of the Angel to our Blessed Mother in Luke 1:37, “For nothing will be impossible for God”. May 2015 be a year of prayer for one and all!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Why are you not happy?

This is a very simple question that speaks volumes about who we are and the attitude that determines our happiness. Life’s lessons has explored and come to a simple conclusion that happiness is not out there, it cannot be given to us. We are either happy or we are not. Happiness cannot be sold or bought neither can it be wished on someone or self. It can neither be given nor be forced on someone or self. Happiness cannot be earned through marriage nor can possession of money or material things ensure it. So what is happiness and why is it so illusive to so many of us in spite of who we are and what we have achieved? Why is happiness so difficult to come by, no matter how we desire it?

The Positive Psychologist, Sonja Lyubomirsky describes happiness as “The experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combine with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful and worthwhile.” The synonyms of happiness are: pleasure, contentment, satisfaction, cheerfulness, merriment, gaiety, joy, joyfulness, joviality, jollity, glee, delight, good spirit, lightheartedness, well-being, enjoyment, elation, ecstasy, jubilation, rapture, bliss euphoria, and what have you. There are many reasons why you do not feel happy and excited about life. Many people, on the other hand, would do anything to prevent their happiness and the happiness of others. Sad though, some of them may not even know that that is their mission: to frustrate others. They are so used to being sad that happiness is nothing but Greek to their ears. Here are some reasons:
1.     You have neglected yourself: Spend some time in front of the mirror and see who and what you see and not who or what you want to see. Look long enough and see yourself with the lines that are drawn out on your face, see your sad self and ask yourself a question, why do I look this way? Now spend sometime in prayer; pray for the gift of discernment so that you may change your ways and begin to live as God intended for you. Accept who you are and be at peace with yourself. Know that God is not done with you yet. You are still His work of art. Be patient and know that you do not have to be perfect, neither should you expect any other person to be. We are always in the process of becoming who God wants us to be, but we have to cooperate with Him. Grace builds on nature. If you allow God, He will work with you so that you may be happy with who you are.

2.         You are always right, or so you want to be. You are not happy because you are always right and every other person is always wrong. What a life! Why is being right so important to you? No wonder you are not happy and God knows how those who live and work with you must feel. Because you have spent your entire life and energy trying to prove how right you are at all times, you have alienated your children and friends from yourself. You find it difficult to have and keep friends; who can be a friend to Mr. or Ms. Right. To have a friend, you need to be a friend. Try to accept you friends for who they are. Please do not try to turn them into you. Learn to tolerate your friends. Do not always prove to them how right you are and how wrong they are. Why not try to be wrong at times, after all, there are words like ‘mistake’ and ‘wrong’ in the dictionary. If we were meant to be always right and not make mistakes every now and then, I am sure such words would not have been thought of in the first place. Being right always makes you sad and unhappy.

3.       You are not happy because you are always complaining of one thing or the other. Your nagging spirit drives away your peace of mind and deprives you of happiness. If you want to be happy stop complaining, refuse to nag and begin to appreciate people. Give them credit for their scanty triumphs in your life. No man is an island. No matter who you are today, some people contributed towards your achievements. The word ‘love’ is real; put it into practice. Think less of yourself and your accomplishments. Remember that without God you are nothing. All that you are and all that you have are gifts from God, not for yourself alone but for others to also benefit from your gifts. By seeing the good in others you will begin to see the good in yourself and happiness will make an in road to your life.

4.         You are not happy because you have refused to change and accept change. The world has moved on and left you behind. It’s like you were asleep while others were awake and going about their normal business. Now that you are awake, you want to drag everyone down. This is a sure way to remain in the kingdom of sadness and unhappiness, and you know what? This is exactly what hell looks like! Sleepers, awake, arise and shine and let the Lord shine on you. Get out of your house, smell the roses, watch the birds flying and enjoy their melodious tunes, their songs of praise to their God. Borrow a leave from them. Thank God for your many blessings. Be grateful, for though the world is messy and at times scary, it is still a beautiful world. When you are at peace with yourself and with others, happiness will be yours forever. Don’t worry then, be happy! 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

How do you prepare for your demise or do you?

A cursor glance or a mere observation of life and nature reveals to us, mentally or instinctively if not naturally that the end of all living things on earth is death. This fact is brought home to us by the many losses that we have experienced in our lives. We suffered our first loss when we were ‘ejected’ from, pushed or ‘forced’ out of the comfort of our mother’s womb at birth. That, no doubt, was the reason for our first cry, which also demonstrated to our mother that we were alive. We did not shed tears of joy but a protest for depriving us of a comfortable and cozy life; a deprivation of an insulated life in an environment that we did not have to work for anything. Our needs were met automatically just by being alive in our mother’s womb. From the day of our birth we knew that many more losses awaited us. Very soon our first tooth as babies would be taken by ‘the tooth fairy’.  From then on gamut of losses would be our lot in life, the most painful of it would be the demise of our parents. Dare I say it? Our own demise would one day follow. So death is not so foreign to us.  We may know about death but to mentally receive it and practically and materially prepare for it may not be easy to conceptualize. It is easier, you will agree, to think of the demise of others than to imagine our end. But Life’s lesson assures us that as the night follows the day one day will be our turn. How prepared are you for that day?

We pray for our departed loved ones always especially in the month of November. We pray for them because many of them died in mysterious and strange circumstances. Many did not prepare for their demise; neither did they know that the day of their death was their ‘D’ Day. Plane crash? Deadly auto crash? Shipwreck?  Bomb blast? Terrorist attack? House engulfed in flames while occupants were asleep? Stray bullets? Irresponsible and reckless use of guns to settle scores and grievances?  We pray for mercy on their souls, that they find peace with the Lord. Their death, apart from being sad, should serve as a warning for us. On the need to be prepared for our day of reckoning let us listen to the Gospel of Luke 13:1-5: “At that time some people who were present there told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. He said to them in reply, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” The lesson we must learn from the dead is that the same destiny awaits us all at the end and the foundation of our final home in the world is sixth below mother earth.

The month of November will soon come to an end and the hustling and bustling of the festive season is right around the corner. Our attention is once again drawn to the need to be prepared as we being the season of Advent. We must think eschatologically: that is thoughts of the final events of history or the ultimate destiny of all living things on earth. Let us take the words of Jesus as recorded in Luke’s Gospel 12:35-40 to heart and ponder them day and night: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” What else can I tell you?

So how must we prepare for our demise? Here are some tips.
1.     Read and put the following Bible references into action: the Gospel of Matthew chapters 5, 6, 7,18 and 25.
2.     Do not forget that reconciliation and peaceful co-habitation should still be the guiding principles for all and sundry.
3.     Prophet Micah 6:8 reminds us thus: “You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.
4.     Remember that being a Christian is not what we say but what we do. Christianity, therefore, is an action word. Let us be Christians in word and in deed. Know that we are all created in the image and likeness of God: even your enemy was created in the image and likeness of God. The poor, the sick, the homeless and those in jail are all God’s children; they deserve care and love from you. They may be the ones to plead on your behalf before the throne of Grace. Do not ignore them! Do to no one what you do not want done to you.
5.     In his letter to Titus 3:1-7 Paul asked Titus to “Remind your people that it is their duty to be obedient to the officials and representatives of the government; to be ready to do good at every opportunity; not to go slandering other people or picking quarrels, but to be courteous and always polite to all kinds of people.”

I am sure if we observe the aforementioned, not forgetting our prayer and sacramental life and doing our best at all times, we should not be afraid of death. Dying then would be for us a transition to a better life, a life with God.