Archive for the ‘The Way Forward in Christ’ Category

A GOD OF STRENGTH

 

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

 

THE WAY FORWARD IN CHRIST

(Part 40)

 

A GOD OF STRENGTH

 

August 5, 2011

Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 4:32-40

 

 

Our God is a God of strength and power. This is what Moses reminded the Israelites, on the eve of his death, at 120 years old, having brought God’s people from Egypt to the desert and to the edge of the promised land. Moses told them how God made a nation for Himself “with his strong hand” (Dt 4:34), how He personally led them “out of Egypt by his great power” (Dt 4:37).

This is the same God who has raised us today as His people. God has a purpose, that we might be His servant through whom He will show His glory (Is 49:3). This is our great privilege, to be able to be God’s instrument, to do His very will, to accomplish His divine purpose for the life of the world.

As such we must respond. How? “You must keep his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you today, that you and your children after you may prosper, and that you may have long life on the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you forever.” (Dt 4:40).

 

First, we must obey God. God gives us the Ten Commandments (through Moses at Mount Sinai) plus all the other commandments given by Jesus directly and through his disciples. For us as CFC-FFL, there are two basic commandments that can encompass everything else. One, we are to grow in holiness (1 Pt 1:15-16), and two, we are to do the work of evangelization and mission (Mk 16:15).

Second, we must observe God’s way of life as given to us. As CFC-FFL, this way of life is represented by our covenant. We are to be faithful to our covenant, knowing that this is not meant to burden us, but to support us to live out our calling. God calls us not only as individuals and as families, but as a community, as a family of families. We can only be properly formed and become what God intends if we remain faithful to every aspect of our covenant.

Three, we must realize that our work of evangelization is done within the context of renewing the family and defending life. When we obey God’s commands and live His way of life, then, as Moses says, our children will prosper and we will have a long life on the land. Obedience directly impacts on family and life.

 

After 30 years, God has formed us as a community, including our wandering at times in the desert. “Out of the heavens he let you hear his voice to discipline you” (Dt 4:36a) in order that we might be chastised, purified and grow in holiness. Then “on earth he let you see his great fire” (Dt 4:36b), witnessing the rapid and massive evangelization work made possible by the Holy Spirit. God has given us our very clear vision and mission. Now, on this our 30th year, the fullness of God’s strength is being made available to us. It is now entirely up to us how we are to respond.

We have already seen what God can do–in our personal lives, in our families, and in the world through our work. “All this you were allowed to see that you might know the Lord is God and there is no other.” (Dt 4:35). Our God is victorious, and His strong right hand continues to be outstretched. In that let us rejoice, and confidently march on into the promised land.

 

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BRINGING IN THE HARVEST

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

 

THE WAY FORWARD IN CHRIST

(Part 39)

 

BRINGING IN THE HARVEST

 

July 5, 2011

Today’s reading: Matthew 9:32-38

 

 

Today’s gospel again speaks about Jesus’ mission, which is also our mission in CFC-FFL. As we continue with our work after 30 years, God once again reminds us of why He raised and restored us, and that is, to send us forth to do mission. (Please see “On Evangelization and Mission (Part 9)” about “Jesus’ Mission, Our Mission,” issued last December 4, 2010).

“Jesus went around to all the towns and villages” (Mt 9:35a). We too, together with the whole Church, are sent to every person and to every place in the world. Our mission in CFC-FFL is rapid, massive and worldwide evangelization.

Jesus went “teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness.” (Mt 9:35b). This corresponds to our evangelistic work of continuing formation for our members, of proclaiming the good news of salvation in Jesus, and of total human liberation. We invite people to our CLSs, but that is just the start of a very long process of formation in Christ, with the goal of holiness and Christian perfection. Thus the desirability of Christian community. Through the process of transformation in Christ through the years, we become whole and begin to experience life in its abundance. We are freed from the dominion of the enemy, and no one is left in need.

 

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who has given his life for his sheep. He has already won salvation for us all. He has already made it possible for us to live a life of abundance, here and certainly in the hereafter. Despite this, many people are still troubled and abandoned, living like sheep without a shepherd. This moves Jesus’ heart to pity.

Our work is to help gather God’s sheep. Our work ought to please Jesus, as he sees more people whom he has died for coming into a vibrant life in him. We please Jesus as we live our lives for him, and as we evangelize more and more.

Now Jesus has brought us into Christian community. Even for those who have been brought into the sheepfold, there is a need for continuing evangelization, as we live out the fullness of the gospel in our lives. People need instruction, correction, counsel, encouragement, inspiration, and so on. As such, there is also a need for shepherds after God’s own heart. These are the servant leaders in community.

Moses was used by God to establish His people Israel. Moses, in looking to his successor, said to God, “May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all mankind, set over the community a man who shall act as their leader in all things, to guide them in all their actions; that the Lord’s community may not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (Nm 27:16-17). From the Servant General, to the District Servants, to the Chapter Servants, and all the other servant leaders, God’s call is for them to pastor His people.

The servant leaders have a great responsibility, to keep the mission going, and to ensure that the community members do not become like sheep without a shepherd. Since they stand in the very sandals of Jesus, they are to strive to be like him in every way. They are to grow in holiness, and act in complete commitment and obedience to the Father. The rest of the brethren in turn must give the servant leaders their active submission and all-out support.

 

When community gets its act together, according to the ways of God, then it will become an effective and fruitful instrument. Then there will be an abundant harvest. The harvest will be abundant because Jesus has already won salvation for all on the cross, and their salvation is the will and desire of God. But in the mystery of God’s ways, He has also made Himself dependent upon His people to bring in the harvest.

Right now, the laborers for the harvest are few (Mt 9:37). Many Catholics are nominal. Many of those who are active in church do not evangelize, that is, actively bring people into the sheepfold. There is a dire need for more laborers.

In CFC-FFL, every member ought to be an evangelizer. Jesus has already issued the great commission, telling his disciples to go into the whole world to proclaim the gospel to all. Let us pray for the grace to respond. Let us continually “ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” (Mt 9:38). And let us certainly do our part.

 

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THE SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

 

THE WAY FORWARD IN CHRIST

(Part 38)

 

THE SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES

 

June 15, 2011

Today’s reading: Matthew 6:1-18

 

 

Jesus has told us about the high calling of being a Christian. From the beatitudes to love of enemies, culminating in the call to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5), Jesus presents to us the challenge of following him. It is a calling that we cannot do on our own strength. But when God calls, He provides. He certainly freely provides grace. And God also provides particular human disciplines by which we can tap on to that grace, and have the strength to live according to His ways.

So what immediately follows Matthew 5 is Jesus’ teaching on almsgiving, prayer and fasting (Mt 6:1-18). How do these three spiritual disciplines relate to our Christian life?

We could visualize it like this.

 

Spiritual

Discipline

Our

Relationship

with

Touching

on our

To rid us of

Prayer

God

Mind and spirit

Pride and the desire for power

Fasting

Self

Body/flesh

Lust

Almsgiving

Neighbor

Heart

Love for possessions

 

The two greatest commandments (or one commandment with two parts) is to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbor as ourselves. On these two depend the whole law and the prophets, that is, the fullness of God’s call to us. How can we love if we do not have a relationship? Thus we pray so that we communicate with God and grow in a loving relationship. Thus we fast and so get to know ourselves and what controls us in life. Thus we give alms and manifest our loving care and concern for those around us, especially those in need.

In growing as a Christian whose body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, no part of us can be detached from responding to the fullness of God’s call. We cannot give generous alms but hate a brother. We cannot spend time in prayer but beyond prayer give free rein to the lusts of the flesh. Thus fasting disciplines our body, our flesh. Almsgiving touches our heart. Prayer transforms our mind and spirit. Together, the three disciplines form and transform our whole being, everything that we are.

 

Now there are three fundamental challenges that face us, those things that can easily bring people down. These are money, sex and power. The antidotes are the spiritual disciplines of almsgiving, fasting and prayer.

Let us visualize it like this.

 

Challenge

Sins

Antidote

Virtues

Money

Inordinate love for

money and possessions

Almsgiving

Poverty and

detachment

Sex

Lust of the flesh

Fasting

Chastity and

Self-control

Power

Pride and

abuse of power

Prayer

Humility and

servanthood

 

When we get into the practice of almsgiving (not just giving to the poor beggar on the street but looking to the needs of all, including the financial needs of our community and parish), we can begin to think not so much of “our” money that we use for our own good, but we can begin to realize that we are just stewards who manage God’s money, which is to be used for the common good and for His mission in the world. The more we grow into this, using more and more for the good of others rather than ourselves, then we attain to the poverty of Christ and the detachment that we need to have from material goods.

When we get into the habit of fasting regularly, depriving ourselves of what is good (basically food, but can also be an activity one favors doing), we can begin to master the unruly and sinful flesh in us. Our life is no longer dictated to by what our human mind and body and emotions desire. We can start to look to the more sublime things in life. We can begin to grow in chastity, in living pure for God.

When we get into the habit of daily prayer, God teaches us a lot of things. We get to know God more intimately, and thus His ways. When we come into worship before Him, we realize what a great and awesome God He is, and how truly insignificant we are. Then we are led to humble ourselves before Him. We also realize that He is Lord and Master, and we are His servants. We then grow in our desire to serve Him and to give more and more of our life to Him.

 

God’s call is to perfection. For human beings that is impossible. For God, nothing is impossible. The God who calls us is also the God who provides for what we need to properly respond to His call. Thus He has given us the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

These three are so easy to neglect. But we do so at the peril of being unable to respond fully to God’s call. On the other hand, we might be intimidated by the call to holiness and perfection, but the process by which that can be achieved is not really all that hard. We simply make use of what God has provided us.

And so we pray–daily personal prayer, worship is community gatherings, weekly Eucharist, rosary and Marian devotions, plus many other ways by which our relationship with God is built.

And so we fast–weekly fast from food, fasting from something we normally like to do as a particular offering to God, fasting from unchristian speech, and the like.

And so we give alms–giving money to the beggar, supporting our community and our parish with our finances, helping build a church or send a missionary, sharing our resources with those in need, and so on.

 

Let us all move on to Christian perfection.

 

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RECOGNIZING THE TIME OF OUR VISITATION

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

THE WAY FORWARD IN CHRIST
(Part 37)

RECOGNIZING THE TIME OF OUR VISITATION

November 18, 2010
Today‚s reading: Luke 19:41-44

In today‚s reading, Jesus laments for Jerusalem. Because the Jews did not accept Jesus the messiah, they ultimately suffered devastation. This has an important lesson for us.

Jesus says „I am with you always, until the end of the age.‰ (Mt 28:20b). Jesus is committed to walk with us during our earthly pilgrimage and as we participate in building his kingdom on earth, until he returns in glory at the end of time.

At the same time, Jesus oftentimes makes a specific visitation to His people, either individually or as a group or as a nation, in order to give more specific tasks that help to accomplish his purpose on earth.

Jesus has called each one of us, and has given us gifts, and has assigned tasks to us. If we respond, we fulfill our purpose according to God‚s will. Jesus also calls and raises groups or movements, such as CFC, to cover important aspects of his work. For us in CFC (now CFC-FFL), this work is evangelization and family renewal. Then Jesus also calls nations, such as the Philippines. This nation has a prophetic role to be God‚s light in Asia and to the world. Especially in this third millennium, where the culture of death is rampaging throughout the world, the Philippines will stand as the last bastion for family and for life.

God has His eternal plan for the life of the world, until the Lord Jesus returns once again. God chooses people for specific tasks, just as He chose Mary, a simple maiden in Israel. When Mary gave her yes, she unleashed a chain of events that resulted in God Himself becoming man and dying on the cross and thus winning salvation for all. Likewise, God calls and chooses others for other tasks, not as earth-shaking as the call to Mary, but important nonetheless, in the whole plan of salvation.

Thus it is not a question of whether God visits His people, for He does. The question is whether people will respond. God, through the angel Gabriel in the case of Mary, through other circumstances in other cases, visits His people. What would have happened if Mary had not given her yes? Well, today some, or perhaps many, who are called do not respond. That is truly tragic.

If people respond, great things will happen, simply because God will be able to move forward His very own divine work. We have seen in our personal lives and in the life of CFC-FFL how God can accomplish great things–radical transformation in Christ, broken marriages restored and becoming vibrant, families made strong and truly life-giving, sinful people growing to holiness, worldwide evangelization in the power of the Spirit, and so on.

But if people do not respond, or worse, do not even realize the visitation of God, what happens?

First, Jesus weeps. „If this day you only knew what makes for peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes.‰ (Lk 19:42). Jesus weeps over our blindness, that we do not recognize the time of our visitation. Here is the Prince of Peace, who can bring us the peace that everyone craves for, but instead we will reap devastation. Jesus weeps over the hardness of heart that makes us not fully embrace him and his call to us, to prefer our own wayward ways. Jesus weeps over our fate, that we experience devastation rather than the blessings that he brings. Jesus went to great lengths, suffering and dying on the cross, to bring us salvation and the fullness of life in him. How truly sad it must be for him to see us going down the wrong path, when he has already illumined the way.

Second, we will weep, because we will suffer devastation apart from the protective embrace of God. Satan is on the rampage, and he oppresses and persecutes God‚s people, he destroys marriages and families, he murders unborn children, he keeps the world enslaved under his oppressive yoke. He will totally try to devastate the lives of people.

Our only security and hope is in God. Indeed, Jesus came to bring peace. With Jesus we can be at peace with ourselves and at peace with others, and have peace of mind and heart despite the storms that rage around us. How truly tragic it would be if we miss the time of God‚s visitation.

What must we do?

We must know what makes for peace (Lk 19:42a). It is Jesus. Only Jesus can bring that peace that surpasses all understanding into our lives, our hearts, our homes, our societies, our nations. Thus we must work to bring Jesus into the lives of people and into the life of the world. This is our work of evangelization and mission. We must be zealous and passionate for this all-important work.

Further, we must recognize the time of our visitation (Lk 19:44b). For CFC, it started in 1981. By this time it should already be clear to us who we are and what we are to do.  Our mission is all about faith, family and life. Our identity is to be disciples who are centered on Christ, faithful to our covenant, and carrying the cross. In 29 years all these should already be clear. What is left is the extent and intensity of our response to God‚s call.

If we recognize the time of our visitation and have learned the lessons Jesus has taught us, including the centrality of the cross and redemptive suffering, then we can withstand the devastation to be wreaked by the enemy (Lk 19:43-44a). Then we will not only survive, but we will thrive.

Let us go about our work with the knowledge and conviction that God has called us, chosen us, raised us, empowered us, and will sustain us by His grace and strength. Let us go forth and bring the peace of Christ upon a suffering and lost world.

And let us respond such that Jesus will not weep, but will rather rejoice.

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PEACE OR DIVISION?

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL 

THE WAY FORWARD IN CHRIST
(Part 36)

PEACE OR DIVISION?

October 21, 2010

Today‚s readings
Psalm 33:1-19
Luke 12:49-53

In today‚s gospel, Jesus makes a startling and puzzling statement. „Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.‰ (Lk 12:51). Then Jesus proceeds to say that there will be division and conflict between households, and even between the closest of family members.

Now of course Jesus has come to establish peace. He is the Prince of Peace. He has reconciled us with the Father. And Jesus has also come to unite the people of God, to be one body of Christ on earth. What are we to make of his statement?

What Jesus is saying is that his life and words will be received by people in different ways, and as such, will become the cause of disagreements, strife and even division. People can choose to accept or to reject, to obey or to disobey, to follow or not to follow, to be faithful or to veer away.

When such happens, Jesus does not say that we are to aim for peace and unity at all costs. Otherwise, we should become politically correct in order not to get into conflict. Unfortunately, this is what is happening in many instances in society today. Christians do not speak out against sins such as divorce and gay marriage in order not to offend. And many Christians today do not want to rock the boat, and so will not confront sinners (in a loving way of course) or correct those who are veering away. Such a posture has simply led to a further weakening of the faith.

Thus peace and unity are very desirable values, but are not to be sought for their own sake. Our goal is not peace and unity, but rather to do God‚s will. Peace and unity are just a by-product of lives lived in accordance with God‚s will. So while we indeed strive for peace and unity, it is never at the expense of truth and obedience to God.

In fact, when we persevere in truth and obedience, that is when authentic peace and unity can occur. This is because those people who insist on veering away from God‚s will, when confronted with the truth, will ultimately be separated, like chaff from the wheat. What will be left will be those who would think and act in harmony with the Spirit of God. Then they can get on with pursuing the mission God has given them.

We do see that conflict and disunity happen so often in the body of Christ. This is lamentable and should not be so, for those who profess to follow and obey Jesus. How should we act in order to prevent or minimize such conflict and disunity in the body? Our action has to do with our relationship with God and with one another.

First, we should fear God. „Let all the earth fear the Lord‰ (Ps 33:8a). This means we should be in awe of God, knowing our proper relationship as creatures to the Creator, and as a manifestation of this, we should obey Him. When we obey God, then, in accord with the two greatest commandments, we not only love Him but we also love our neighbor. This specially true for those who are our brethren. We „do good to all, but especially to those who belong to the family of the faith.‰ (Gal 6:10). In community, such love should be even more intense. If we live out such love, then there would be no room for strife and disunity.

Second, we are to be just and righteous in our relationship with our brethren in Christ. „The Lord loves justice and right‰ (Ps 33:5a). We are to give to our brethren what is their due, that is, respect and fraternal love. We are to be righteous in all our dealings in community. This translates to a number of actions, such as, not being judgmental, avoiding maligning brethren in any way, speaking positively of others and showing them honor and respect, looking always to the good of others, being reconciled quickly when there is a rupture in relationships.

Jesus came for a mission, to proclaim the kingdom of God. „I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!‰ (Lk 12:49). His work is a refining and purifying fire. Jesus came so that we might be saved and be restored to our relationship with the Father.

We the disciples of Jesus continue with his mission. His work is our work as well. We are to be evangelizers and missionaries, to proclaim his salvation throughout the world.

In this work, we can expect to encounter conflict and dissension, even from our own brethren. And as Jesus himself said, there would be division as well.

Let us stand fast on our faithfulness to our authentic calling. Only in this way can there be authentic peace and unity in our community. Then such peace and unity can be experienced by all followers of Christ as well, if not here on earth, then certainly in heaven.

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For discussion in household meetings
Am I in a current conflict with a brother or sister that remains unresolved? If so, how have I been guilty of failing to be just and righteous?