Sunday, February 25, 2007

1st Sunday of Lent (Year C)

Deut 26:4-10; Ps 90; Rom 10:8-13; Lk 4:1-13

A young seminarian, struggling over lustful thoughts and desire, came to his spiritual director and asked, “At what age do you think all these go?” The eighty-year old priest confidently replied, “Eighty, son, at age eighty.” “Eighty?” the seminarian gasped desperately and started to leave. Suddenly, a young sexy lady crossed the street and the priest’ eyes were glued to the crossing beauty. Still gazing at the lady, he called back the seminarian and said, “Son, did I say eighty? Well, make that eighty-five.”

(The story is from Lessons We Laugh to Learn by Larry Faraon)

The story of the temptation of Jesus in the desert is appropriate as we enter the season of Lent. The Church invites us to go into the desert ourselves and spend forty days to know the will of God in our lives, to understand the ugly schemes of the devil and to gather spiritual strength through prayer and self-discipline. The desert might be any place or moment where and when we can be by ourselves in silent prayer and reflection.

Saint Thomas Aquinas said that God allowed Jesus to be tempted by the devil for four reasons, namely: to strengthen us against temptation, to remind us that no one is free from temptation, to teach us how to overcome temptation and to fill us with greater confidence in his mercy. Because Jesus had been tempted in every respect as we are, we become confident that he would sympathize with our weaknesses and provide us with the needed strength in times of temptations (Heb 4:15-16).

The gospel helps us to see the value of “facing temptations”. After his baptism by John at the Jordan River, Jesus had to understand what his Father really wanted him to be and to do. An essential part of this discernment process required him to face his individual temptations. In their book entitled Journey of the Spirit: Meditations for the Spiritual Seeker, T. Hudson and M. Kelsey point out how Jesus faced the tempter and listened to what he had to say. Jesus knew that in order to resist the evil one he had to know his dirty tricks. Only then was he able to ascertain that his life was not like that of the devil and that he lived according to the ways of his Father in heaven.

Facing temptations is a disquieting process, and this perhaps explains why we don’t normally do it. We prefer to see ourselves as well-meaning individuals, free from any kind of interior conflict. Yet, we know that all of us have our share of evil thoughts, dark passions, selfish desires and motivations that could harm our relationship with God and with others. Hudson and Kelsey insist that it is better to acknowledge our inner struggles rather than to deny them. We cannot get rid of things within ourselves unless we confront them. We cannot renounce what we do not recognize. Jesus himself found this kind of confrontation necessary. It must also be for us.

How are we going to face our temptations? First of all, we have to find some time alone; we need to have our own little “desert experience”. If we are always on the move, we can hardly challenge the tempter and his enticements. The devil would like to keep people busy because he doesn’t want us to pause and address our inner struggles. In contrast, the Holy Spirit would like to lead us into solitude and into our interior selves because this is the arena where the evil one could be faced and defeated.

After we have achieved some kind of stillness, we need to identify our temptations, name them just as Jesus did. His temptations were three, namely: to focus on material things at the expense of the spiritual; to become an instant religious celebrity; and to exchange his fidelity to God for worldly power. Like Jesus, we need to know clearly the nature of our temptations. Hudson and Kelsey suggest that it would be helpful if we can write them down on paper. This process may be annoying because we would know how the devil often has succeeded to trick us. And yet, this is an important beginning in our journey to Christian maturity.

Our temptations may not be exactly the same with those of Jesus. Some of us may be tempted to be choosy with friends, biased against superiors, thoughtless toward co-workers, possessive of associates and insensitive to the feelings of others. Others may be enticed to earn money and prestige at the expense of personal integrity. Whatever they may be, the principle remains constant: “What we don’t face, we cannot deal with, and what we will not deal with, we will never control.”

After having clearly identified our temptations, we must realize that we cannot deal with the power of the evil one alone. We need the grace of the Risen Lord who has proven his superiority over the powers of darkness. As we turn to him, he comes and stands by us in order to protect and guide us along our spiritual path.

On examination day Mark was stumped by many difficult words. Softly the tempter whispered, “Look at Jane’s paper; she’s an honor student and always gets them right.” Mark heeded the suggestion and copied several answers. The teacher noticed his actions and was greatly surprised, for she had always thought of him as an honest boy. When it came time to collect the completed work, she observed that Mark was having an inner struggle. After bowing his head for a moment, he suddenly tore up his paper. Although at first he had yielded to temptation, he finally decided to take a zero rather than be dishonest. Calling the boy to her desk, she told him, “I was watching you, Mark, and I want you to know that I’m very proud of you for what you did just now. Today you really passed a much greater examination than your spelling test.”

(The story is from The Storyteller’s Minute by Frank Mihalic)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle (Year C)

1 Pt 5:1-4; Ps 23:1-6; Mt 16:13-19

Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Chair of Peter the apostle. The chair has become a symbol of a person’s authority or office. In Church’s tradition, Peter is recognized as the first leader of the Christian community after Christ. His name comes first in the list of the twelve apostles (Mt 10:2; Mk 3:16), and it was to him that the Lord Jesus entrusted the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Mt 16:16) and the responsibility of nourishing the flock (Jn 21:15). Today, the chair of Peter refers to the seat of the power of the pope as leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

The first reading today is carefully chosen to remind us of the primary meaning and intention of authority and office in the Church. All authority in the Church is from God and it is given for the service of the Christian community. The person who receives an office in the Church is a servant, not a lord. He or she has to use authority to serve the good of others. All leaders in the Church, both the clergy and the lay, must take seriously the admonition from the first book of Peter: “Shepherd the flock which God has entrusted to you, guarding it not out of obligation but willingly for God’s sake; not as one looking for a reward but with a generous heart; do not lord it over those in your care, rather be an example to your flock” (5:2-3). In serving, Church leaders are to bring the image and presence of Christ, the Good Shepherd, to all (Ps 23:1-6).

An article in a poster attracted my attention. The author, Anna Sandberg, explains the difference between a job and a ministry in the Church:

Some people have a job in the Church.
Others invite themselves in a ministry.
What’s the difference?

If you are doing it just because no one else will, it’s a job.
If you are doing it to serve the Lord, it’s a ministry.

If you quit because somebody criticized you, it’s a job.
If you keep on serving, it’s a ministry.

If you’ll do it as long as it does not interfere with your other activities, it’s a job.
If you are committed to staying with it even if it means letting go of other things, it’s a ministry.

It’s hard to get excited about a job.
It’s almost impossible not to be excited about a ministry.

An average Church is filled with people doing jobs.
A great and growing Church is filled with people involved in ministry.

Where do we fit in?
What about us?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday (Year C)

Jl 2:12-18; Ps 51:3-6a, 12-14, 17; 2 Cor 5:20-6:2; Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

Today is the beginning of the season of Lent which will culminate during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. We call this day “Ash Wednesday” because, traditionally, we do during the Mass the blessing and giving of ashes. This penitential rite reminds us, in a symbolic manner, of our frail, limited human nature and of our great need of God’s mercy and forgiveness. As the minister imposes the ashes on our foreheads, he says either one of the two formulas: “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel” (Mk 1:15) or “Remember, you are dust and to dust you will return (cf. Gen 3:19).

Lent is a 40-day penitential season, but it is not all about human sinfulness. In fact, during this season, the Church would like us to reflect on the unmerited benevolence of God. Our prayer and reflection would reach its climax during the celebration of the paschal mystery of Christ our Lord. By then we will be reminded that God loved us so much to the point of allowing His only Son to die on the cross in order to save us from death which is the effect of sin. The Lord’s resurrection will renew our hope that someday we all will share eternal life with God in heaven.

The season of Lent provides us with the special opportunity to respond positively to God’s gratuitous offer of love and forgiveness. The first reading reminds us that God “is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness and ready to relent” (Joel 2:13). In the second reading, Saint Paul appeals that we be reconciled to God because He has already done His part. God in Jesus has entered the sinful human condition in order to help us rediscover the beautiful image that we lost by sinning. The favorable time of salvation is already now, not later. God wants us to leave sin behind and to start walking in His ways.

The gospel mentions three traditional practices of the Lenten season, namely: almsgiving, fasting and prayer. These three are not mere external penitential requirements; rather, they are meant to usher us towards living fully the Christian life.

When we give alms, we are reminded that the goods of the earth are meant for all humanity to enjoy. How conscious are we of the presence of so many poor, hungry, sick people around us? By sharing generously and unconditionally our possessions, we can be the Good Samaritan that Jesus wanted us to become for others.

When we fast, we learn to discipline our natural appetite and desires. Often, we easily give in to our selfish cravings for non-essential things of the world, things that do not truly contribute to our total nourishment and well-being. Naturally, when we deny ourselves of some things, we also save some money. Our fasting becomes more meaningful when we give what we have saved to the poor and the needy.

When we pray intensely and heartily, we become more and more sensitive to the will of God in our lives. Particularly, during the Lenten season, God wants to create a pure heart in us and to renew within us a steadfast spirit. Let us then open our hearts to God’s grace and begin to follow the way of Jesus Christ our Lord!

Satan confronted God about an issue of justice and forgiveness. “It is totally unfair that people kept sinning and you also kept on forgiving them. Why did you condemn me for eternity after I made a single revolt?”

And God replied, “Satan, you wanted to be forgiven, but have you ever said ‘I’m sorry’?”

Sunday, February 18, 2007

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

1 Sam 26: 2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23; Ps 102; 1 Cor 15:45-49; Lk 6:27-38

During a homily, the priest asked, “How many of you have forgiven your enemies?” About half of the congregation held up their hands.

The priest inquired one more time, “How many of you at least have thought of forgiving your enemies? All responded this time, except one small elderly lady.

“Mrs. Jones? Are you meaning to condemn your enemies for life?”

“I don’t have any.” She replied, smiling sweetly.

“Mrs. Jones, that is very unusual. How old are you?”

“Ninety-eight,” she replied.

“Oh, Mrs. Jones, would you please come down in front and tell us all how a person can live ninety-eight years and not have an enemy in the world?”

The little sweetheart of a lady tottered down the aisle, faced the congregation, and said, “I outlived the bitches!”

(The story is from an unknown author)

Jesus asks his disciples to love one’s enemies. Notice carefully that the Lord is not only asking followers to forgo revenge, but to do something that would benefit their enemies. “Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Lk 6:27-28). Many would consider this command not only impossible to do but also stupid. How could a person wish the enemy well? For instance, how could a person pray for the one who sexually molested her? Or how could a person do a favor to the one who destroyed his reputation? Would not revenge be the right way to counter an offender?

The Jewish law of retaliation (“An eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth”) gives the offended party the right to seek damages in kind, even to seek life for a life (cf. Ex 21:24; Lev 24:20; Deut 19:21). In the first reading, Abishai tries to convince David that it is lawful to kill Saul because the latter also wanted him dead out of jealousy. Indeed, the law of retaliation would justify David if he decides to kill Saul, but he chooses not to harm the one whom he considers as God’s anointed. For David, it is better to leave Saul in the hands of God (1 Sam 26:10).

Retaliation appears to be the prevailing tendency of many people. Normally, we prefer to fight back or get even every time we are hurt or offended by another. We believe that natural law allows us to seek revenge for every harm or injury. Unlike David, we can hardly wait for divine justice and we rather take matters into our own hands.

The Lord Jesus, however, makes it clear that love, not revenge, is the proper response to enemies. Before expounding this point, let us clarify the meaning of some radical sayings that go side by side with the commandment to love enemies.

“To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to every one who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again” (Lk 6:29-30). Careless reading of this text could lead one to do nothing in the face of evil, or to tolerate the unjust practices of people in society. When Jesus was slapped by one of the guards of the high priest, he did not turn the other cheek but asked, “If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” (Jn 18:23). Obviously, Jesus did not tolerate abuse or any wrongful action. Nevertheless, he also refused to retaliate. When somebody strikes us, we ordinarily react by hitting back. To turn the other cheek after being slapped means to do the extraordinary or the unexpected. In the face of evil, the Christian chooses to remain nonviolent and kind. When, for instance, somebody keeps spreading malicious thoughts against him, the Christian prefers to remain friendly and speaks positively about that person.

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned” (Lk 6:37). Likewise, this passage must be read carefully because often it is interpreted out of context to cover up personal sins and social injustices. It is a Christian duty to judge as wrong the immoral behaviors of people, or to judge the unfair practices of companies and governments. In asking disciples not to judge, Jesus only mean to warn us not to pass ruthless judgment or condemnation to another person. Final judgment belongs to God, not to us. God alone knows the secret springs of human actions and only He is in good position to decide the case of every person. We, who can only see external appearances, may pass judgment on the sin, but never on the sinner.

Why do we need to love and forgive our enemies?

First of all, we need to love our enemies because, as Jesus says, we have to “be compassionate as our Father is compassionate” (Lk 6:36), we have to “be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). God “makes the sun rise on both the wicked and the good, and he gives rain to both the just and the unjust” (Mt 5:44-45). If our Father in heaven loves both saints and sinners alike, so must we.

Second, only love can stop hatred between individuals. Violence begets more violence. Imagine, for example, the fruits of the endless conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Consider also the product of the enmity between extremists from both Christians and Muslims all over the world. With hate, there will be no end to violence and bloodshed. Indeed, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. We cannot extinguish fire with fire, only with water. The fire of hatred could only be stopped by the waters of love and forgiveness.

Third, only love can heal hurts and wounds. People would tend to believe that revenge pacifies the soul and repairs the damage done to oneself. This is hardly the case. In fact, hate injures not only the one hated but also the person who hates. The person who always tries to get even gradually becomes unforgiving and revengeful. Hate corrupts his soul and hardens his heart.

Finally, love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. The former US president, Abraham Lincoln, was often admonished by his advisers for being so amiable to his political opponents. His response was: “Am I not eliminating my enemies by befriending them?”

A grocer came to the Master in great distress to say that across the way from his shop they had opened a large chain store that would drive him out of business. His family had owned his shop for a century—and to lose it now would be his undoing, for there was nothing else he was skilled at.

Said the Master, “If you fear the owner of the chain store, you will hate him. And hatred will be your undoing.”

“What shall I do?” said the distraught grocer.

“Each morning walk out of your shop onto the sidewalk and bless your shop, wishing it prosperity. Then turn to face the chain store and bless it too.”

“What? Bless my competitor and destroyer?”

“Any blessing you give him will rebound to your good. Any evil you wish him will destroy you.”

After six months the grocer returned to report that he had to close down his shop as he had feared, but he was now in charge of the chain store and his affairs were in better shape than ever before.

(The story is by Anthony de Mello)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Jer 17:5-8; Ps 1; 1 Cor 15:12, 16-20; Lk 6:17, 20-26

“Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Lk 6:20).

For a materialist and consumerist mind, the words of Jesus would hardly make any sense. What is blessed in having little? What is good in suffering from hunger and want? In order to understand the meaning of the “Beatitudes,” it is crucial to clarify some points.

First, material poverty, in itself, is not good and has to be eradicated. Like a good Father, God wills that all His children would enjoy material blessings and prosperity. Jesus Himself feeds the hungry (Mt 14:19) and asks the rich to share their wealth to the less fortunate ones (Mt 19:21). The Lord would condemn those who are insensitive to the needs of others (Lk 16:19-31) and those who choose to trust in the abundance of their possessions or those who seek refuge in their wealth rather than in God (Lk 9:25).

Second, scholars would tell us that the word “poor” in Biblical culture primarily refers to a social reality rather than an economic one. In olden times, a person was considered rich if that individual had the influence or the power to take the property of the poor who were incapable of protecting themselves. The poor were the powerless or those who had no voice in society. No wonder in the Bible, the word “poor” often is associated with the widows and orphans, people whose circumstances were easily manipulated by the rich. Thus, the more accurate translation of “rich” and “poor” in the Bible would be the words “greedy” and “socially unfortunate” (J. Pilch). The “woes” pronounced by the Lord were meant for the greedy, not for all rich people of His time. In fact, Jesus did have some rich people among His friends (Lk 7:36; Jn 3:1).

And third, we need to underline the fact that Jesus considered “fortunate” those who were suffering from injustices and manipulation “on account of His name.” Remember that the first followers of Jesus were persecuted and considered outcast by many in Jewish society. As a consequence of their discipleship, they had to suffer from all sorts of deprivation and dispossession. One can just imagine how the words of the Beatitudes had consoled them during their moments of trial and persecution.

What is the relevance of the Beatitudes for us today? First and foremost, the Beatitudes inspires all of us, rich and poor, to put our trust primarily in the goodness of the Lord, not in human beings, not in things. Because of material abundance and connections with powerful people, the rich among us would tend to forget easily the need of God. The first reading warns: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. . . Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord . . . He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jer 17:5-8).

Moreover, the Beatitudes challenges us to always take the side of the poor. If necessary, we have to be poor so as to feel how they feel and to see things from their point of view. What it means to experience the life of the poor is well-explained by John Harriott: “It is not just occasionally missing a meal or not being able to afford a packet of cigarettes . . . but every snub, every deprivation, every time we suffer rejection, every occasion on which we are ignored or contradicted. It is that experience of poverty which will give us some share in the condition of the poor, and spark the emotion which is needed for their defence.”

Those of us who have the influence are encouraged to do things that would empower the poor. Some of my Filipino friends, for instance, would encourage their housemaids to go to school so that they will not remain domestic helpers for life. By providing time and financial assistance for the schooling of their housemaids, my friends are practically fulfilling a Christian duty. It is also nice to know some rich entrepreneurs who support the provision of just wages and humane working conditions for their employees. Surely, because of their good heart for the poor workers, they will be among the blessed ones in the kingdom of God.

Finally, the Beatitudes provides us with the needed impetus to keep following the Lord no matter what the cost. Nowadays, it remains difficult to witness truly the values of the kingdom. We continue to encounter strong opposition, at times violent harassment, as we try to fulfill our shepherding, sanctifying and prophetic roles in the world. May the Beatitudes keep us going and strong in our resolve to remain faithful disciples of Jesus! “Happy are we when people hate us, drive us out, abuse us, denounce our name as criminal, on account of Jesus our Lord” (Lk 6:23).

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Sharing Dreams

(A beautiful poem written by Venus, a friend of mine who shares with me some dreams for the people of God in the Philippines)

‘Tis no chance when two souls meet
sharing dreams where only sky is the limit
blessing each other with a heart that hears
each carrying seeds that one day will be ready for the sowing

I dream of a quiet little place
in some nook of even the poorest parish
where the motherless child finds a mother
and the childless widow an infant son or daughter

I dream of a simple little abode
where the mother and her young look after the old
where the old can grow old gracefully
and one day shall pass away with dignity

I dream of a vibrant little community
where the chuckle of a mother, the laughter of children,
and the sigh of a happy old woman in bearable pain
blend like chorus singing their way to heaven

I dream of a quiet little place
where care becomes the air to breathe
where money does not have the final say
when one’s end is but a few steps away

I dream of a caring little place
that respects the life of the very sick
and the nature of the Life-giver to bless
especially in the dark and at the hour of death

I dream of faithful gentle carers who value life to the full
and not give up loving when things get so difficult
but in humility squeeze the sufferer’s hand in prayer
the gentle touch of God like a torrent of care

I dream of generous people with hearts
bigger than their homes and savings account
whose giving overflows from the well of compassion
the glory and love of God the ultimate reason

I dream of the day when every parish community
look upon their abandoned young and old
their sick and their lonely, their homeless and their poor
and create for them a space as if near heaven’s door

-vbg Nov. 23, 2006-

Sunday, February 4, 2007

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Is 6:1-2, 3-8; Ps 137; 1 Cor 15:1-11; Lk 5:1-11

What would make you decide to abandon your job and get another? A higher salary? A more civilized kind of work? An office closer to home? A friendlier or healthier working atmosphere? A more affable employer? Or all of the above? The Bible commentator John Pilch suggests that the Lord’s invitation to some fishermen to leave their livelihood and to follow him is rightly understood in the context of this question.

From today’s gospel, we learn that Peter and his brother Andrew had a fishing business partnership with another pair of brothers, namely, James and John (Lk 5:10). They owned and managed two boats (5:2). During the time of Jesus, fish was a popular commodity in the Mediterranean world, and it is realistic to presuppose that the business partnership of Peter and company flourished. What prompted them to leave everything and follow Jesus (5:11)?

We are sure that Jesus did not offer a better earning livelihood to Peter and the other fishermen. He did not also promise them a more sanitized kind of work, not even a nearby working place because they were supposed to do missionary work. Most likely, it was only the person of Jesus that had greatly attracted the fishermen.

In today’s gospel, it was the miraculous catch of fish that deeply jolted Peter. Before this event, he already had witness the Lord’s exorcism, healing miracles, including the healing of his mother-in-law. But the big haul of fish that came on a day following a whole night of unsuccessful fishing was simply too much for a veteran fisherman to take for granted. Close to Jesus, Peter could not tolerate his own unworthiness. “Depart from me for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk 5:8). The feelings of fear and shame are a natural reaction of a human being in the presence of the divine. The same thing was felt by the prophet Isaiah in our first reading: he was filled with fear and overwhelming recognition of his sinfulness (Is 6:5).

Instead of condemnation, Peter and the other disciples received from the Lord an invitation to discipleship and ministry. “Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch” (Lk 5:10). Jesus was like telling the fishermen: “Don’t feel bad about yourself. Come and be my co-worker. Together, let us catch people for the kingdom of my Father.”

In a Church, a sign is posted which says, “Jesus does not call the qualified; he qualifies the called.” This message should inspire us all to follow the Lord and to work for him and with him. The Lord’s invitation to Peter and company is now our invitation. Jesus needs us because the “harvest is plenty, but the laborers are few” (Mt 9:37). Let us not be discouraged by our own weaknesses and shortcomings; rather, we have to remain trustful in the graciousness and kindness of the Lord who calls us.

Who among us is worthy to serve the Lord? Nobody, not even the pope! But who are we to question the ways of God?

Somebody sent this message from an unknown author via email:

The next time you feel like God can’t use you, just remember:
Noah was a drunk,
Abraham was too old,
Isaac was a daydreamer,
Jacob was a liar,
Leah was ugly,
Joseph was abused,
Moses had a stuttering problem,
Gideon was afraid,
Samson had long hair and was a womanizer,
Rahab was a prostitute,
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young,
David had an affair and was a murderer,
Elijah was suicidal,
Isaiah preached naked,
Jonah ran from God,
Naomi was a widow,
Job went bankrupt,
John the Baptist ate bugs,
Peter denied Christ,
the Disciples fell asleep while praying,
Martha worried about everything,
the Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once,
Zaccheus was too small,
Paul was a religious fanatic,
Timothy had an ulcer, and,
Lazarus was dead!

No more excuses now. God can use you to your full potential. Besides you aren’t the message, you are just the messenger.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Thursday of the 4th Week in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Heb 12:18-19, 21-24; Ps 47; Mk 6:7-13
(A homily given to seminarians of St John Vianney Theological Seminary)

My dear seminarians, when you become priests, it would not be easy for you, as it is for me now, to keep a simple lifestyle. You know why? Normally, you would be receiving decent salaries or allowances from your parishes or places of assignments. You would have few or no direct mouths to feed. And so, you could easily use your money for your own personal needs or wants. Moreover, our people have very high regard for priests. Usually, they are extra generous to priests and they would shower you with gifts of cash and material things. Then, I also am thinking of the fact that many of us, when we were seminarians, were forced to live simply either because of the demands of the formation or because of poverty. As a result, when we become priests, we would easily enjoy the convenience and the material blessings that ordinarily come with the priesthood.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that all poor seminarians would become materialistic after their ordination. No. This might be the case of some, but it is not true always. In fact, we know of poor seminarians who continue to live a simple lifestyle as priests or as bishops. My only intention here is to remind us that the danger of becoming materialistic, of becoming too sophisticated, is so real in our situation as diocesan.

In today’s gospel, Jesus requires his disciples to travel light and to bring only the bare necessities as they make their missionary journeys (Mk 6:8-10). This gospel passage invites us to ask “Why is simplicity of life so essential for disciples, particularly for priests, religious and seminarians?” (The following five points are inspired by the article of Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan "Simplicity of Life" in Priests for the Third Millenium).

First of all, simplicity of life would make it easier for us to follow Jesus. The accumulation of many material things would distract our relationship with God and might lead us to think that happiness can come from what we have, not from who we are. Those of us who choose to live in simplicity would be freer to reach God.

Second, a simple lifestyle would bring us closer to the poor, who are the favored ones (anawim) of God. When we voluntarily embrace a simple life, we surely will develop a generous heart. The sharing of goods and resources would just flow naturally in our day to day encounters with the less fortunate ones.

Third, simplicity of life would be a constant reminder that only in God is our soul at rest, and that nothing in this world – no person, no car, no celfone and no bank account – will last or satisfy us forever. Only God can do that. Only He can quench our thirst for meaning and fulfillment.

Fourth, a simple lifestyle would encourage us to put our trust in Divine Providence instead of just ourselves or our possessions. The more comfortable and secure we are, financially and materially speaking, the less we count on God to give us what we truly need in life.

Finally, simplicity of life would be a powerful, visible message that we, priests, religious and seminarians, can give to the people. By living an uncomplicated life, we will be able to teach people the true meaning of poverty in spirit and to encourage them to share their material abundance with others.

The gospel of Matthew declares, “Happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Commenting on this passage, William Barclay says, “The man who is poor in spirit is the man who has realized that things mean nothing and that God means everything.”