TOPIC: FOLLOWING JESUS IN FREEDOM
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Mt 14:25-33
“Round About My Cradle”
(TO THE PRIESTS, Our Lady’s Beloved Sons, Marian Movement of Priests)
- The Marian Message
a) September 8 (9 months after Dec 8), is the Feast of the Birth of Mary. Our Blessed Mother was conceived without sin in the womb of her mother St. Anne. And now the Immaculate Conception is born into the world, the only sinless human being of all times. The Woman chosen by God from eternity who will crush the head of the serpent is born. That is why she is called the Dawn of Salvation. This is the meaning of her title “Stella Maris” (Star of the Sea), or the Morning Star. This star is at its shiniest just before the break of dawn. It announces the coming of Light.
b) At birth, a person’s future is not clear yet. His birthday is not something significant. But if that person becomes great later on in life, his birthday becomes something memorable and important in society. Mary’s birth is different. This is because she is the Immaculate Conception, the creature prepared by God to be the Mother of His Son for the salvation of mankind. So her birth is already a very important event in the world. She invites us to gather “round about my cradle” and rejoice at her birth.
c) We gather “round about my cradle” of the newborn Mary, not only to celebrate, but also to contemplate on her virtues that made her truly the greatest disciple of her Son Jesus. “For this, I am leading you along the way of humility, of littleness, of simplicity, of innocence, of trust and of your greatest filial abandonment” (letter e). These are the virtues that we have to live in order to become ready to truly forgive and love one another.
d) These virtues will truly make us pleasing in the eyes of her Son Jesus: “He gathers into the precious garden of his divine love the humble, the poor, the simple, the weak” (letter f). As more and more people follow the virtues of Mary, peace will soon be a reality since forgiveness and love will abound in the world: “I now see close at hand the dawn of the new times for the Church and for all humanity” (letter i).
- The Sunday Gospel
a) The first reading is a lesson on basic wisdom: everything in this world is limited and passing, “the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthen vessel weighs down the mind that has many concerns.” Hence, the author urges us to be more interested in eternal and heavenly realities. True wisdom is to know God and His plans. This is impossible for a man submerged in worldliness.
b) Psalm 90 expresses one’s realization of God’s greatness and infinite mercy: “In every age, O Lord, you have been or refuge.” In contrast, man’s limitations and insignificance are highlighted: “the next morning they are like the changing grass, which at dawn springs up anew, but by evening wilts and fades.” It, therefore, reminds us of our need to return to Him: “Return, O children of men.”
c) St. Paul’s Letter to Philemon is quite short. It is his earnest appeal to Philemon, on behalf of a slave named Onesimus. It is not clear if he was a runaway slave or legitimately sent by his master Philemon to Paul. But what is clear is that Onesimus had stayed with Paul for some time and they have established a close relationship: “I urge you on behalf of my child, Onesimus, whose father I had become in my imprisonment.” In this letter, Paul asks Philemon to accept back Onesimus, and treat him likewise: “welcome him as you would me.”
d) The Gospel is the teaching of Jesus about the serious demands of discipleship. Anyone who wants to follow him must be ready to make him the first priority in life, over and above one’s family. This is what the expression “hate father and mother” means. Second, he must to ready and willing to take up his cross. Third, he must be ready to renounce all his possessions. These conditions should make a would-be follower think seriously about his decision to follow Jesus. He cannot say “yes” now, and when confronted with the serious challenges, decide to turn away. This is the meaning of the parables of the man planning to build a tower and the king who is about to wage war against another king. The decision to follow Jesus needs serious thinking and commitment.
e) The readings point out to only one theme: following Jesus, though full of serious challenges, is the best decision we can ever make. The book of Wisdom and the Psalm make us realize this: true wisdom can be found only in God. In the second reading, the example of true discipleship is shown by St. Paul as he asks Philemon to become a true disciple himself in dealing with Onesimus. And the Gospel, definitely, is about following Jesus. In all these, the Blessed Mother is our perfect example of a true disciple. She invites us to look at her on the occasion of her birthday. The best way to honor her is by following her virtues and imitating her examples.
- Points for Reflection
a) Why do many Catholics join the other religions such as the Born Again Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and Mormons? The most obvious reason is lack of education. It appears that, in the Catholic Church, education is not being given sufficient attention and priority, not only by the laity but also by the clergy. Pick one parish at random, and look at its pastoral program (if there is any). Surely, there will be schedules for mass, baptism, weddings, etc. There will be fund raising activities, meetings, organizations, construction projects and many others. But pre-sacramental seminars would be very minimal – the so-called pre-Cana seminar for couples preparing for marriage is now so abridged that it hardly makes any impact on them. And definitely, formation and doctrinal seminars would be very rare, if there is any. Many priests hardly give serious attention to the education of their parishioners. On the other hand, even if there are opportunities for learning the faith, most Catholic lay faithful are not interested. They are more interested in spreading gossips, attending bingo socials, birthday parties, ballroom and line dancing, and learning about pyramid marketing strategies, but not about the Catholic faith. If there is no seminar or instruction being offered, people complain. But if there is a scheduled seminar, they won’t come either.
b) Baptism is the first sacrament. But for many Catholics, this has just become a social event, devoid of any religious significance. Most Catholics are baptized as infants. This is a very beautiful practice. Parents want their child to become Christians as soon as possible. Unfortunately, these parents do not do their duties faithfully and properly. So, the child grows without any instruction in the faith by the parents, and worse still, without any good example shown by them. If the child is sent to a public school, he grows up as baptized Catholic, but not evangelized. This is the case in so many Catholics for generations – “sacramentalized” but not “evangelized”. Infant baptism is a beautiful practice, but it depends largely on the maturity and responsibility of the parents. They have to educate, train and form their children as true Christians.
c) It is certain that every Catholic would like to go to heaven. That is why, every single one of us wants to follow Jesus. What many of us do not realize is that there is only one way to heaven – the way of the Cross – and that the Lord we are following is carrying a cross. Most of us want the final result – heaven – at once, without taking into consideration the way that has to be taken. So, when problems and difficulties arise, many look for another way, another religion, and another lord. This explains why there is massive apostasy nowadays. Many Catholics are turning away from the true faith, not because they do not like Christ, but because they do not like the cross – they abhor sufferings and sacrifice, they prefer comfort and luxury, and they worship not God but money.
d) Jesus is God. He has infinite and absolute power over everybody and everything. He sets all the conditions in following Him if we really are interested in entering His glory. In the Gospel, He explicitly laid down the conditions: the family takes secondary priority, carry the cross patiently and renounce all possessions. This should be very clear to us. Unfortunately, and ridiculous as it may sound, many of us try to turn things around. We want to set the conditions, and God has to follow. This comes out in the way we pray. It is not, “Lord, Thy will be done.” Rather, it is, “Lord, I want this. Please let it be done.” And at times, we even leave a threat: “If not, I will join the other religion; or I will not pray to you anymore!” Most likely, God would reply, “So what? Take it or leave it!” Just to take one clear example: confession. We commit sin, and we want to be reconciled to God. Jesus instituted the sacrament of Confession/Reconciliation. He sets the condition: “You want to be forgiven of your sins and be reconciled with me? Then go to the priest, confess your sins, and your sins will be forgiven.” But how many Catholics still prefer to have “Direct Confession to God”? In other words, who are we to set the conditions? Our main concern is just to follow God’s will and nothing else.
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