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Anxiety and peace

Anxiety is a common response to human situations and problems that we encounter. It can either be light and short, or it can be heavy and long. In today’s second reading, we read from the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians: “The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (4:6-7). God the Son lived among us and showed us the way. He met all kinds of problems and persecutions, but there was continuing peace in his inner life. How did he succeed in doing this? Precisely by prayerful and loving attachment to God the Father. Thus, if we learn and continue to love and serve Christ in the way that He loved and served us, we will live in profound peace, whatever human pains and problems we encounter. There will be times when God will answer our prayers according to what we ask for. There will be times when He will not. One way or the other, we will experience inner peace if we are spiritually and emotionally attached to Him as our Creator and God. The awareness of God’s continuing love for us will move us to love Him in return, whatever happens to our daily lives as human beings.

Here are two male patients, both confined in the same hospital, each one in a private room, next to each other. Both were suffering from the same disease. Both were suffering, not only from the pain, but also from deep anxiety. One was not only anxious but was becoming angry at God that his prayers, according to him, were being ignored by God. At one point, his anxiety pushed him to speak in a loud and angry tone that was heard outside the room. “Diyos ko, ano ba? Ano ba ang nagawa kong masama na pinarusahan mo ako ng ganito? Akala ko ba ay mahal mo ako? Ngayon alam ko na, na hindi mo ako mahal!” In the other room, the other male patient was totally quiet. His eyes were closed, and in his heart he felt God’s presence as he surrendered himself to Him. His anxiety disappeared, and he prayed quietly in this manner: “Panginoon, pagalingin mo po ako, at kung ito ang iyong kalooban, iaalay ko po na mahalin pa kayo ng mas malalim, at gayon din ang aking pamilya, at ang sambayanan. Amen.” This prayer gave him much peace, and the anxiety left him. Now, which type of discipleship do you belong to? What a stupid question to ask! The answer is clear, and this discipleship is being offered to all of us by the one and only loving God. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And the opportunity to live out this discipleship is offered and open to all of us, especially to those whom God has gifted with much time, talents, and treasures. More and more disciples under this category are very much needed today in our country.

This brings us to the last part of today’s liturgical focus: Extreme Poverty Day. Side by side with the socio-economic progress of the rich and middle-class Filipinos are the many more who are extremely poor, and whose lives are suffering greatly. We are still very far from being a truly Christian country, as far as a more equitable distribution of God’s resources is concerned. A national spiritual conversion is needed, no less. We are not the real owners of our time, talents, and treasures. Not even our own lives. We are simply the stewards of God, who owns and creates all of creation. Thus, we are called to be disciples of Christ, not only of His words and teachings, but precisely His lifestyle of stewardship, simplicity, and sharing. This does not mean that the rich and middle-class should let go of all that they have and live like our poor families in Payatas. But to have the heart in sharing much of what they are and have with the poor and underprivileged. Easier said and done! Here was a wealthy businessman who had bank accounts both here and abroad. The father of one of his employees suddenly died. The body had to be brought home to the province, and he ended up with a lot of debts. His employer gave him P2,000 as his contribution to all his expenses. A week later, the employer and his family joined an expensive pilgrimage to the Holy Land! God Almighty, what do you say to that? In the name of religion at that!

Our beloved Pope Francis expresses this tragic situation in the following words: “The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers.” (From 10 Things Pope Francis Wants You To Know.) One of the first things he did after becoming Pope was not to live in the Papal Palace. He also took the name of St. Francis of Assisi, who was known for his lifestyle of poverty, and whose main apostolic ministry was reaching out to the poor. This is what Pope Francis is making an effort to follow.

Let me end with another family who also runs a profitable business. They live in a simple house, with a simple lifestyle. They are active members of two organizations that run programs for the poor. Quite a big part of their income go to these two institutions, and they are actively involved in running them. They are able to reach out to more and more poor families. In time, they felt God’s presence not only in their own lives but in the poor families they were helping. Their extended family no less.

Let us all be inspired by Jesus Himself, who shared all that He was, his time, and His talents with one and all, especially the poor. His lifestyle as LOVER was one of stewardship, simplicity, and sharing. May we all be His faithful and loving disciples for the rest of our lives. Amen.

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