Grace to you!
During the first two days of Advent, I mentioned that the general disposition for this season is of joyful hope. As we prepare for the Lord’s coming in that joyful expectation, we are encouraged to understand the heart of God. In today’s reflection, I focus on one aspect of that heart, that is, the mercy of God who wills that none of the “little ones” be lost.
If you’ve been a teacher, a coach, a mentor or a parent, you will easily relate to the reality of the desire to see your student, client, or child succeed. As a teacher, from time to time, I come across students who struggle. Perhaps, they come from broken homes. Or they have a past. Or they are dealing with peer or neighborhood influences that discourage the desire to push forward. If you are a teacher focused on the individualized development of each student, you can’t help but be compassionate. You notice the potentials. You wish you could do the miracle of reorienting them and refocusing their attention towards success, if you had the power to do so.
Generally, parents feel that much towards their child. Even for that child who is a humbling experience for the family, deep within the heart of the parents, they want to see that child overcome the challenges and succeed. In fact, any little improvement from the struggling child, which otherwise could have gone unnoticed, would excite the parents. They want to throw a party. They count it an incredible progress based on the child’s past. I believe this quality is part of what we share from our Heavenly Father as people who are created in the image and likeness of God.
We read a powerful message from the Gospel of Matthew 18:12-14. After warning the disciples about the dangers of sin (Mt 18:7-9), and more importantly, the grave evil of misleading children, causing scandal to little ones (Mt 18:10-11), the Lord shares his passion for the salvation of the sinner. He used the child as a specific case study for such revelation of his will.
He asked the disciples, as he asks us today: “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Mt 18:12-14).
In this story we see the heart of God. We see the merciful heart of our Heavenly Father who “desires (wills) all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). If we appreciate it this way, then we know that the most beautiful thing in our relationship with God is our salvation. Nothing is more important.
We also know that one of the easiest things to receive from the Lord is mercy. If you know that you will be forgiven no matter what, wouldn’t you feel more excited, though remorseful, to run back to the person you have sinned against and humbly acknowledge your failings? In terms of salvation, fear of punishment does less for the sinner than the realization of Divine Mercy. As Saint Pope John Paul II once wrote in his Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy), it is the mercy of God that inspires the sinner to return to God. “Conversion to God always consists in discovering His mercy.” (n. 13).
If I know that no matter what, I’m forgiven when I turn to my Lord, I approach God with confidence and hope and trust that it shall be well with me. I do not run away from my Lord as if he is a monster or a terrible vindictive judge. I come to him with my brokenness, my terrible dirt, and unworthiness and say to him: Lord, heal me. Lord forgive me. Good news, my friend, I’m forgiven. You are forgiven.
Ask and you will definitely be forgiven. The Lord is immeasurably ‘rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4). It is God’s will that you do not perish. This should fill your heart with joy.
Praying for the grace to appreciate the mercy of God this season and all the days of your life. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Tuesday Advent Week 2: Is 40:1-11; Mt 18:12-14]
Grace to you!
Our reflection today focuses on the need for spiritual support system as we prepare for the coming of the Lord.
In life we need each other. Our life on earth is so wired that the need to interact, to be in relationships and to be with others is a necessity. As they say in philosophy, we are social beings. No one can live isolated from everyone else without suffering from boredom, narcissistic self-absorption, or simply becoming victim of depression.
Depression has a special friend—loneliness. It feeds on loneliness. It makes its victim not want to get up from the bed to reach out to others. Its victim feels down and medically unable to socialize. The person simply wants to be alone. Depression is an avatar of miserable self-isolation.
You do not need special skills or clinical training to know when a friend or family member is getting depressed. You simply see the red flag when there is a sudden withdrawal from their usual routine, withdrawal from usual things that excite the person, withdrawal from meetings or public gatherings, and withdrawal from loved ones. Depression has a friend in loneliness. So, if you have a friend or family member who suddenly becomes very reserved, reach out to the person with the warmth of love. Who knows if the warmth of your heart could help. I am praying for healing for those trapped in the terrible net of depression. Amen.
In the Gospel of Luke 5:17-26, we are told a story of a sick person, a paralytic whose healing happened because, in part, people carried him and “lowered him on the stretcher through the tilesinto the middle in front of Jesus.” Seeing the faith of this group, the support group, Jesus healed the sick.
There are many lessons from this story, such as the role of faith to healing, the saving grace of Jesus, the role of spiritual support system in moments of need, etc. I focus on the necessity of spiritual support system.
Our spiritual life is such that we can’t go to heaven by our power or through the logic of “I can do it alone.” We need God’s grace. We also need spiritual mentors and a good support system to walk with us, fellowship with us. This saves us from loneliness, which is a terrible thing. It also helps us to receive necessary feedback healthy for our spiritual growth.
As a priest, for instance, I’ve found out that many of the clergy who make terrible mistakes in their life and ministry are those who think they can do it alone or go it alone. They begin to avoid socializing with their brother priests. They become lonely. Loneliness, as they say, is the devil’s workshop. On the other hand, many of the most effective and faithful priests I have known are those who work as a team. They are those who have spiritual mentors and a good support system (or support group) that serve as a source of inspiration as well as checks and balances.
I’ve also observed that many of the laity who do not have spiritual friends or a support group find it difficult to relate to the faith, a faith which is both personal and ecclesial, community oriented. We need each other in the faith journey. We fellowship with others.
I would suggest: If you do not have spiritual mentors or a support system, a group or one or two individuals you could share your spiritual experiences with, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to start looking for one, starting today. It is very important for your spiritual life.
One more thing: How about call or text or reach out to the person(s) who are a support system to you today. Tell them how much you appreciate the role they play in your life. I think it’s a beautiful thing to do.
Praying that God will give us the grace to be a healthy and refreshing support system to one another. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
[Monday Advent Week 2: Is 35:1-10; Lk 5:17-26]
Grace to you!
Yesterday, I reflected that the message of the End Time is hope for the righteous. Rather than being afraid or feeling depressed, we should be delighted that the Lord keeps us in the loop regarding the divine plan for his Second Coming. We have sufficient information from the Lord on how to make best of each moment of our day. No need to be anxious.
Think about this: Isn’t it a privileged for anyone to uncover to you his or her will? To get an insider information about anything is a privilege. It should inspire trust and joy. In a deeper way, to have the privilege of knowing the mind of God because the Lord has revealed to us the substance of it, should cause us to rejoice.
Moreover, it delights the Lord when we understand his will and revelation and respond accordingly. It is the simple and humble heart that understands and responds accordingly. In such a heart, the Lord delights.
From the Gospel of Luke, we read a beautiful message. The Lord gave the message to the disciples after they returned from the “mission of the seventy.” That is, when he sent seventy of his disciples, two by two, to go to the wider community and share the Good News.
“In that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said: “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” (Lk 10:21)
I am filled with joy to read this message from the Lord. To realize that the Lord is actually excited when someone understands or grasps the gift of his revelation, makes me ecstatic. It’s a beautiful thing to see.
Many biblical scholars regard the above quotation as the “Lord’s hymn of joy.” It is interesting to note that the object of this joy of the Lord is you. It is you when you understand the Lord’s revelation. When you respond in grace to his promptings and revelations.
You may want to know that the Greek word used to describe how Jesus felt, his joy, is egalliasato. It has a sense of someone who is excited and full of exultation and joy for seeing the children win. The object of the joy is about the child. It is selfless.
Imagine you going to watch your child in kindergarten or high school or even college play his or her first baseball competition for the school. Imagine the kind of excitement you will have if your child hits a home run which decided the game.
Or the excitement of watching your child graduate from college when thought, given the child’s past, such a success would be unlikely. I would love for you to think about that very moment. Imagine that kind of joy. It could be used as an analogy to describe the Lord’s joy because you understand his will and revelations. It is also comparable to the joy of childbirth, when the mom carries the new born baby and gazes on the child’s face and sees the beauty.
The Lord’s joy flowed from the Holy Spirit and his praise was directed to the Father. Scriptures says, “Jesus…filled with the Holy Spirit…” It is the joy flowing from Jesus through the Holy Spirit to the Father. It is a Trinitarian joy, a complete joy.
Imagine that the Joy Jesus feels is the Trinitarian joy for you and me. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit share in the joy when we come to believe God’s revelation in Christ. Isn’t this wonderful?
The same applies to revelations concerning the end of time. To understand that the plan of God towards the End Time is for hope and the fulfilment of God’s ultimate plan, inspires the same joy, not despair. When people are despairing because they are reminded of the End Time and all the trials and tribulations that come with it, it could be because they have not realized that all things work unto good for those who love God (Rm 8:28). Could it be that sin has dulled their mind and the thoughts of judgment becomes terrifying?
I pray we work with God’s grace and never put ourselves in a situation where the massage of judgment becomes terrifying. Sin keeps us in that situation. Grace life, life in Christ, righteousness frees us from it.
If worried about events around you and concerned for the future, how about opening your heart to God, asking the Lord to fill your heart with the joy of His presence? God will fill your heart. The Lord’s joy will be in your heart and your joy will be complete (Jn 15:11). Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Tuesday of the First Week of Advent: Is 11:1-10; Luke 10:21-24]