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Opinion

Cross is Joy

GOD’S WORD TODAY - Ruben M. Tanseco S.J. - The Philippine Star

Our first reading from the prophet Zechariah in today’s liturgy depicts our coming king as riding on an ass, in humility and poverty. This is the very opposite of that worldly vision of a rich and powerful king riding on a two-wheeled chariot carried by a horse. Therefore, long before the person of Christ came to be one among us, the vision of a humble and poor Prince of Peace was already there in historical terms. The vision that came to reality has not changed up to this very day. When we feel and experience the reality of Christ today, we realize that God’s vision of reality for the good of mankind has never changed, from the beginning of history. God’s love and way of giving that love has been there since the beginning of time, all the way to the present.

The humble and poor Prince of Peace in the person of Christ ministered to multitudes with His never-ending love and compassion. He performed so many miracles, from healing the sick, including lepers, to reviving the dead to life again. “Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness.  At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few, so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.’” Mt. 9:35-38). This message is not only for his original disciples, but to all his disciples of all times, which includes you and me. Today, there are so many people who are turning their backs from God’s love and mission.  We must become more and more aware of this as time goes on. One of the strongest temptations in today’s world is Godlessness. Sinfulness.

But as we are told in the Second Reading for today, God’s love for us is so great that His Spirit dwells in each one of us, and this makes all the difference. With the Holy Spirit as our constant companion and “fellow-sufferer,” love lightens the burdens of life. As the spiritual writer Wm. Maestri reminds us: “Love lightens the burdens of life. . . . Burdens are removed by being accepted, and are transformed by love and grace. In fact, Jesus clearly promises that those who accept the challenge to follow him can expect many crosses, persecutions and rejections. But, even more, for those who remain faithful there is hope of eternal life and joy without end.” (Grace Upon Grace).

One of our places of apostolic ministry is Payatas. Many of the families there are financially poor. But what strikes me deeply is that many of them live in peace, harmony, and love. They attend Mass regularly on Sundays, and quite a number of them are actively involved in some form of ministry, either in the parish or in some apostolic organization. Their simple but loving relationship with God and with one another in their daily lives quietly reveals the reality that the Holy Spirit dwells in them. On the other hand, there are those who turn their backs from the Holy Spirit and live sinful lives, causing some form of harm to the community. Another place I want to single out is Forbes Park in Makati. Most if not all the families there are rich or middle-class. There, too, you will find families where the Holy Spirit dwells in an active, loving way, and some families where the Holy Spirit is ignored and denied.

Our two examples are found all over the world. God’s loving presence is in all of God’s creation, but because of the gift of freewill, the situation is where it is. God’s love is accepted or denied. But God never ceases to give His love, which we find in our Gospel reading for today. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Mt. 11:28-30). This loving and inspiring invitation and mission from Christ should be throbbing in our hearts all the time. What a meaningful and worthwhile life you and I have been gifted with. The crosses in our lives are really preludes to our resurrection with Christ.

In our country, we have quite a number of organizations who help the poor and disabled. Let me mention just a few that I have an involvement with. One is the Blind Industrious Group of Masseurs, Inc. This helps the sightless to become economically self-sufficient by developing their skills and abilities. Another is the Orthopedically Handicapped Victims Livelihood Association, Inc. A third is the Philippine Angel and Indigents Sound Group, Inc. Due to lack of space, the last I want to mention is the college scholarship program that we run in Payatas. This is quite expensive indeed. How can we experience such a yoke as easy, and such a burden light? There is only one answer, and that is LOVE. Christ’s profound love for each one of us, and our response of loving Him and loving one another in return, and this does not happen only within the family. The ultimate punchline of God’s love goes all the way to loving even your enemies.

“But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly father is perfect.” (Mt. 5:44-48). Amen.

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