Archive for the ‘From the Servant General’ Category

THE PARADOX OF OUR LIFE AND MISSION

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

 

THE PARADOX OF OUR LIFE AND MISSION

 

July 25, 2011

 

Today’s readings:

2 Corinthians 4:7-15

Psalm 126:1-6

Matthew 20:20-28

 

 

The authentic Christian life is a counter culture to that of the world. That is why it is so difficult for sinful humanity to live out what is authentically the way of Christ. That is why we are called on to put on the mind of Christ. The way of the world is a wide road that leads to destruction, while the way of Christ is a narrow path that leads to salvation.

Today’s readings are very interesting, in that they speak about some of the paradoxes in living for and serving Christ while in the world. Let us take a look at these.

 

Bible verse

The world

The Christian life

2 Cor 4:7a

earthen vessels

treasure

2 Cor 4:7b

power from us

power of God

2 Cor 4:8a

afflicted

but not constrained

2 Cor 4:8b

perplexed

but not driven to despair

2 Cor 4:9a

persecuted

but not abandoned

2 Cor 4:9b

struck down

but not destroyed

2 Cor 4:10

the dying of Jesus

the life of Jesus

2 Cor 4:11

we who live are constantly being given up to death

so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh

2 Cor 4:12

death is at work in us

but life in you

Ps 126:5

those who sow in tears

will reap with cries of joy

Ps 126:6

those who go forth weeping

will return with cries of joy

Mt 20:25-26a

the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them

but it shall not be so among you

Mt 20:26b

whoever wishes to be great among you

shall be your servant

Mt 20:27

whoever wishes to be first among you

shall be your slave

Mt 20:28

did not come to be served

but to serve

 

In the topsy-turvy world of Christian discipleship, the first is the last and the greatest is the least. Suffering for the cause of Christ brings joy. Human weakness is strength in God. The humble are exalted. The foolish shame the wise and the weak shame the strong. The lowly and despised reduce to nothing those who are something.

Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, came as a suffering servant. For all those who wish to follow Jesus, he gives the directive: deny yourself and embrace the cross. For those who truly want to serve him, Jesus says, “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” (Mt 20:22b).

We may give up many things, like our time, talent and treasure, we may endure many hardships, but we are assured that we are on the right path. We simply have to trust in Jesus, “knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and place us with you in his presence.” (2 Cor 4:14).

The paradoxes of life point to the reversals in our earthly fortunes, as God works in and through us. When we finally look back on all the ups and downs of life, on all the seeming tragedies and pain, we can confidently say, “The Lord has done great things for us; oh, how happy we were!” (Ps 126:3). Even happier will we be as we go about our work of evangelization and mission, bringing more and more people into a vibrant life in Christ. Everything then works for our good and for the good of God’s people. “Everything indeed is for you, so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.” (2 Cor 4:15).

 

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Restoring our Strength

            FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

 

OUR THEME FOR 2011

(Part 36)

 

RESTORING OUR STRENGTH

 

May 15, 2011

Today’s reading: Psalm 23:1-6

Because CFC is God’s servant through whom He will show His glory (Is 49:3), CFC in its first 20-25 years soared in the strength of the Spirit. Its membership topped one million in 160 countries. This was a testimony to God’s work in and through His lowly instrument.

But infidelities came into the picture, from the very top. One IC (International Council) member veered away, removing Christ from CFC’s work with the poor, then 4 other IC members veered away, disobeying bishops and doing unchristian and unbiblical acts against their own brethren. Thus CFC started on a downward spiral, resulting in a crisis and split in 2007.

But God’s work and God’s plan continue. God then raised a remnant and restored it to CFC’s authentic charism. This is CFC-FFL. After formation through the years after the crisis, God is now ready to fully restore CFC-FFL and give it the fullness of His strength, in order to carry on His original intent. So we say to the God who called us, “you restore my strength.” (Ps 23:3a).

God’s part is to call, raise, restore, anoint, equip, strengthen. Our part is to say our “yes” to Him, be obedient, and be faithful to our covenant. God has His way, and it is not our way. We veer away when we follow our own agenda and human ways of doing things. Thus we need to look to the ways of God. We need to aver, “You guide me along the right path for the sake of your name.” (Ps 23:3b).

What is the “right path”?

It is first of all the path of righteousness. We are made in the image and likeness of God. As such, we are called to be holy as God is holy, to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect. We are to be faithful to the covenant God has given us in community, which covenant is the means by which we walk the path of righteousness.

Secondly, it is the path particularly cut out for us as CFC (now CFC-FFL). This is manifested by our vision and mission. We are an evangelistic and missionary community, doing the work of renewing the family and defending life. This is our charism. This is our reason for being.

Finally, it is the path Jesus himself trod. It is the path that leads to the cross. Thus in 2010 God emphasized to us the value of redemptive suffering. But this was after God stressed to us the virtues of joy (2008) and trust (2009), which virtues help keep us on the right path, no matter what challenges we are facing or what sufferings we are enduring. As Christ’s disciples, we are called to deny ourselves and take up our crosses. It is our privilege, just like Paul, to follow Jesus to the cross.

When we walk along the right path, then our strength that comes from God will be restored. When we become proper instruments, then God is able to use us in the fullness of His power. When we become faithful servants, then God is able to accomplish His will in and through us.

God this year reminds us: He formed us as His servant from the womb, He brought us back to Him, He intends to manifest His glory through us (Is 49:5). For our part, if we walk along the right path, then we can rightly claim, “my God is now my strength!”

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THE KING AND THE CRIMINAL

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

THE KING AND THE CRIMINAL

November 21, 2010
Feast of Christ the King

Today‚s readings:
Colossians 1:12-20
Luke 23:35-43

Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. Jesus is our King and is the Lord of all. The Romans condescendingly put an inscription on the cross that read, „This is the King of the Jews.‰ (Lk 23:38), not knowing that they had actually proclaimed the truth for all the world to see.

But today I want to focus on the criminals crucified with Jesus. We have two contrasting responses of the two criminals. One reviled Jesus, the other submitted himself to the lordship of Jesus. We too are always given that choice. And though at times we do not necessarily revile Jesus, if we do not fully accept his lordship over our lives, then we are in effect actually doing so. There is no middle ground. If we are lukewarm, Jesus spits us out of his mouth (Rev 3:16). If we say „Lord, Lord‰ but do not do the will of God in our lives, then Jesus regards us as evildoers (Mt 7:21-23).

Now here is a very interesting thing. To the criminal who honored Jesus, Jesus said something very radical. „Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.‰ (Lk 23:43). Wow! What we all long for, to be with Jesus eternally in heaven, he granted to the criminal. And it was to happen that very day!

Was the criminal no longer to pass Purgatory? All do so, because of our sins such that we need to be purified before entering into the holy presence of God. All, except for a very few exceptions. There of course is our Mother Mary, who was assumed into heaven upon her death. Being immaculately conceived, she had no need of further purification. Then perhaps there was also Elijah. He was taken by a flaming chariot and flaming horses and „went up to heaven in a whirlwind.‰ (2 Kgs 2:11).

Sometimes I think that with regard to the criminal, he may not necessarily have gone to heaven immediately like Mary and Elijah. Peter says that „with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.‰ (2 Pet 3:8). So when Jesus said to the criminal that today he would be with him in Paradise, that could have meant one day or one millennium! The criminal might have still found himself in Purgatory for 721 years and 127 days! (I am being facetious).

Whatever it is, the indisputable fact is that the criminal was assured by Jesus himself that he would be with him in Paradise. No one has ever been assured by Jesus himself in that way.

What is Jesus teaching us in all this?

First, God does want us in heaven with Him eternally. Not just Mary and Elijah, but the criminal as well. God reaches out to the sinner and the saint, to the great and the lowly. We just need to repent of our sins, accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, and strive to live our lives according to God‚s ways.

Second, God accomplishes our salvation through the cross. It is the intent of God „through (Jesus) to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross.‰ (Col 2:20). The cross is central to our faith and is the very instrument of our salvation. If we are to have authentic faith, if we are to be true disciples of Jesus, then we must „take up (our) cross daily‰ (Lk 9:23).

Third, taking up our cross is a great privilege. We walk along the very path of Jesus. We take on his mind and not the values of the world. Remember James and John, who with their mother asked for places of honor at the right and the left of Jesus (Mt 20:21)? What was Jesus‚ reply? He said that they would drink the cup of suffering that he himself was to drink (Mt 20:22-23). Now here was Jesus crucified, with two criminals at his right and at his left. They were afforded that great privilege of being crucified with Jesus, the very blessing that Jesus offered to James and John.

What about us? Do we sneer at and jeer at those who are giving their all for Christ (Lk 23:35-36)? Do we look only to what Jesus can do for us, rather than the other way around (Lk 23:39)? Have we lost our fear of God, not realizing that apart from Him we are subject to condemnation (Lk 23:40)? Do we embrace the cross of Christ or what the world offers? Do we rejoice in the privilege to suffer with him at his right and at his left, or avoid suffering and seek comfort even in our spiritual walk?

May we be like the good thief or criminal. May we always humble ourselves in the awesome presence of our Lord and Savior. May we strive to live our lives, such that we can cling to our eternal hope, and simply say to our Lord, „Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom‰ (Lk 23:42).

Rest assured about Jesus‚ reply: „Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.‰

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Becoming Like Christ

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

BECOMING LIKE CHRIST

November 11, 2010

Today‚s reading
Philemon 7-20

Today‚s reading brings us to a very short letter of Paul in the Bible, the letter to Philemon. Often, this letter is glossed over, as it seems it does not have much to offer with regard to pastoral or theological inputs. But what Paul says in this letter is really quite profound. Paul has come to the point where, in addressing the human situation of Onesimus the slave in relation to Philemon the master, he has taken on the very posture of Christ.

Onesimus was a slave who ran away from his master Philemon, was converted to Christ by Paul, served him for a time, and now was being sent back by Paul to his master. How has Paul used this situation to be like Christ?

First, although he had „the full right in Christ to order (Philemon) to do what is proper, (he) rather (just urged him) out of love‰ (v.8-9). God our Creator owns us as His creatures, Jesus our Lord and Master has purchased us with his blood and we are his slaves, but God never forces us to do what is right and good. Rather, God in effect appeals to us, providing us the grace we need, so that we would freely choose to do good. God, out of love, does not violate our freedom to choose (v.14).

Second, Paul says, „if (Onesimus) has done you any injustice or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, write this in my own hand: I will pay.‰ (v.18-19a). Jesus paid the price for our sins. How great and inscrutable is that? The King of kings took the form of a slave and gave his life for us on the cross.

Third, Paul tells Philemon, „you owe me your very self.‰ (v.19b). By giving his life for us on the cross, Jesus freed us from slavery to sin and the dominion of Satan. But now we have become Jesus‚ slaves. We are slaves of Christ. We owe him our very lives, our freedom, everything that we are. We are to be obedient to him in everything. We are to live our lives for him.

Fourth, Paul asks Philemon to accept Onesimus „no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me‰ (v.16). We were all slaves to sin and darkness, but now we are freed by Jesus. Even more so, we are restored to our relationship with God as our Father. As such, we are all brothers and sisters to one another, all part of the one family of God, who dearly loves us all. If so, then we are to love one another with the love of God. We are never to consider anyone as inferior to ourselves, because we are all children of God.

Finally, Paul asks Philemon to „welcome him as you would me.‰ (v.17). We are first of all to see Christ in each other. We are children of God, made in the image and likeness of God, having the dignity that befits such. Of course our image has been tarnished by sin, but the reality remains. Further, we are to work such that indeed such image is restored. This is why Jesus sends us, his disciples, to evangelize and do mission. We are to help bring people back to God and to fullness of life in Christ.

So we see that Paul has taken on being Christ. Now Paul also says to us, „Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.‰ (1 Cor 11:1). We look to Paul‚s example, knowing that if we follow in his footsteps we will be following in the very footsteps of Jesus.

I want to emphasize two concrete aspects of this.

One, we need to realize that hardships, suffering and pain for the sake of the Kingdom are necessary and even desirable. Such suffering is redemptive. Often we suffer because of injustice. That makes our suffering even more beneficial, for we take on the injustice of the cross of Jesus. This cross is the icon of our Christian faith. Like Paul then, we are called to suffer for the cause of Christ, and to rejoice in such suffering!

Two, we are to give our lives for the sake of the gospel. By our work, including the attendant sacrifices and suffering, we are to participate in the redemptive work of Jesus, by helping bring people to conversion and transformation in Christ. God has made Himself dependent upon His people to proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus. This is, as Paul claimed for himself, „God‚s stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God‰ (Col 1:25). This too is our calling. It is both a privilege and a responsibility.

Paul addressed this letter to three people: Philemon, Apphia and Archippus. He referred to them, respectively, as co-worker, sister and fellow soldier (v.1-2). In this once again we are reminded of the call to discipleship, that we are to be brothers and sisters to one another, fellow workers for the Kingdom, and comrades-in-arms in the spiritual war that rages around us.

Let us then continue to love and care for one another, and be about the work of the Kingdom through our work of evangelization and mission.

It is then that we, like Paul, can become like Christ.

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WHO WE ARE, WHAT WE DO

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

WHO WE ARE, WHAT WE DO

November 8, 2010

Through all of our 29 years, we have spoken much of our vision and mission, who we are, what we are called to do. We know that we are an evangelistic and missionary community. This has been true from the very beginning and has never changed. We do our work within the context of family renewal. That is one distinct factor that distinguishes us from other renewal movements.

Since the crisis of 2007, God has raised a remnant, faithful to its authentic charism. Now we are known as Couples for Christ Foundation for Family and Life (CFC-FFL). Our basic charism and mission has not changed, but has been refined. Now, as an evangelistic and missionary community, we are tasked with renewing the family and defending life. This actually is the crucial task of the Church in this third millennium.

As CFC-FFL, aside from our vision and mission statements, our statement of philosophy, our covenant, we also have our Core Values. These Core Values are: (1) Centered on Christ, (2) Evangelistic and missionary, (3) Focused on the Family, (4) Being Community, (5) Living a Preferential Option for the Poor, (6) Exercising servant Leadership, and (7) Being a Servant to the Church. All these are our guideposts in ensuring that we move forward according to God‚s plan for us.

Now, in the challenging work of this third millennium, I want to use the initials „CFC-FFL‰ to summarize who we are and what we are called to do.

First, what we are called to do. What is our mission? What we are called to do can be summed up by three letters: F, F and L. These stand for faith, family and life.

Our work of evangelization is about a renewal of faith. It is first and foremost re-evangelization, where we bring nominal or lapsed Catholics to a renewal of their faith, through transformation in Christ and empowerment by the Holy Spirit. This is the foremost challenge, as many Christians today are no longer truly Christian, even for those who still go through the motions of Christian activities. Catholics need to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. They need to be true disciples of Jesus. They must be walking along the path of holiness and righteousness.

Then we evangelize within the context of the renewal of the family. The family is the basic unit of society, and what happens within the family is what determines the kind of people who live their lives in society. If a home is dysfunctional, then parents and children also bring that dysfunction into society. If however a home is truly a place of Kingdom ground, then the Church is able to produce the saints that she needs in order to become light and leaven. In this work of renewing the family, we provide strong support environments for every member of the family–the kids, the youth, the singles, the couples, the handmaids and the servants.

Finally, we are called to defend life. The fight of this third millennium is all about the culture of death, which the anti-life, anti-family, homosexualist forces are imposing on society and the world. This is the final assault of the evil one, who wages all-out war on the Author of life. We have been thrust into this savage conflict, and we are to give our all in defending and promoting the culture of life.

What then are we called to do? What then is our mission? It is to defend, preserve, strengthen, renew and celebrate faith, family and life.

Now that is quite a task. For us to become the effective instruments that God intends us to be, we need to become a particular kind of Catholic. We need to be formed according to God‚s will and plan. We need to be clear about our identity, about who we truly are.

I would then sum this up in three letters: C, F and C.

The first „C‰ is being „Centered on Christ.‰ This is the most basic posture. We live for Christ, and we die for Christ. We serve Christ. We obey the final commission of Jesus, to go into the whole world and proclaim the good news of salvation in him. We strive to become true disciples. We strive to grow in holiness, to be another Christ. We are his witnesses, to the ends of the earth.

The „F‰ stands for „Faithful to covenant.‰ Aside from our covenant with God as Catholics, we have a particular covenant as CFC-FFL. This describes our way of life, so that we can truly become the people that God wants us to become, so He can use us according to His eternal plan. We understand the importance of our life as a community, and we commit to live out our lives as brothers and sisters in Christ, as co-workers in the Kingdom, as comrades-in-arms in the battle that is at hand. Our community life is our priority. Our covenant is our solemn commitment to God.

The second „C‰ refers to „Carrying the cross.‰ The cross is at the core of our work. It is an integral component of the call to discipleship. It is the gospel that we proclaim. We realize that responding to God‚s call to us will involve us in hardships, oppression, persecution, suffering and pain. This is the very path of Jesus. As such, we know that such suffering is redemptive. And so we rejoice in the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross is what strengthens our commitment, as it purifies us, humbles us, and keeps us depended on Christ and focused on the mission at hand.

Who are we and what are we called to do? The initials of our very name say it all.

We are:

C — Centered on Christ
F — Faithful to covenant
C — Carrying the cross

Working to celebrate:

F — Faith
F — Family
L — Life

May our Lord bless us and empower us, as we respond to His call, and give of ourselves totally for His greater honor and glory.