You want to listen to the word of God here. I was fortunate to attend Fr. J.'s elegant celebration of his 33rd year anniversary as a priest at Villa Immaculada (at the back of the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros). It was attended by different folks from various walks of life who have been benefitting from Fr. J.'s many lectures, Masses, and reflections. I saw NAMFREL's Joe Concepcion in attendance, among other guests. Please support Fr. J.'s worthy endeavor. It's not everyday that we are blessed with brilliant Bible scholars preaching, lecturing on the Bible with the authority that can only come from erudition. It gives us a fresh perspective on the Bible and the joy of discovery of so many new things.
Yesterday over confession, I asked the priest a question I've long been harboring in my heart: "Why is it that, whenever I pray for other people's concerns (often, serious ones), I inevitably suffer, I become spiritually weak right after? I feel physically drained, mysteriously get sad/depressed, and feel weak in the face of temptation?" The priest/confessor reacted by saying reflexively, "How can that be, that is not supposed to happen!" When we pray for others, he said, we are refreshed. "It's like water flows from God through us. You must be blocking the grace of God (with sin)." I thought that, in a way, he was right, but I think he didn't get my point entirely.
In the mix of earnestness and a little bit of confusion, I forgot to cite the familiar Biblical scenes where Jesus is unduly alarmed by someone who dared touch (without permission) the hem of his robe, ostensibly for healing. One passage (Mark 5:25-30) notes that Jesus felt some power was being drawn from him. Because power, in the lingo of physics, can neither be created nor destroyed, just being transformed from one energy to the next, it’s logical to assume that Jesus was somewhat drained of some precious energy. Like certain batteries, he must have just come from an evangelization work, he was dead-tired, and he needed to recharge. He felt somewhat weakened by the intrusive touch, not because he had sinned and thus was “blocking the grace of God” somewhere, but because life-sustaining energy was being drawn from his human persona.
I thought that, in the same vein, I don’t feel weakened post-intercessory prayer because I was blocking God’s grace somewhere, insulating myself from the circuit, so to speak; I feel weak because someone else partook of something that's left in me but only enough to sustain me spiritually and physically. Maybe I should recharge more often, especially after interceding for others, but that’s beside the point.
This thought is quite disturbing to me because it implies to me that God’s grace has a physical quality – it follows the law of thermodynamics, and thus must be handled like physical energy – transferable, diminishable/exhaustible, in someone who serves/offers it others as its conduit ("channel of grace").
The bad part is, this thought has made me somewhat afraid whenever a friend asks me to pray for him or her for this and that grave concern. I know it’s not my own power I’ve giving away, but that’s exactly what I’m driving at. I need to keep a part of that energy I’ve stored up (from my own spiritual diligence, say) for my own sake/survival. It seems selfish, but self-sustenance is selfish? I don’t know. I’m just trying get real because, unlike monks and nuns, I find it hard to set aside extra time to constantly recharge/reenergize my batteries. In faith, I believe that with every intercession, I store treasures in heaven, but I could use some of that energy for myself if I am to survive from day to day.
I'd like to assure everyone that this fear certainly does not prevent me from accepting future requests to intercede for anybody. I just thought that maybe, with things cleared up a bit, an intercessor would know what to do, which precautions need to be taken the next time someone dares touch the hem of his or her robe.
There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years.
She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors
and had spent all that she had.
Yet she was not helped but only grew worse.
She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd
and touched his cloak.
She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”
Immediately her flow of blood dried up.
She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.
Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him,
turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?”
But his disciples said to him,
“You see how the crowd is pressing upon you,
and yet you ask, Who touched me?”
And he looked around to see who had done it.
My ways are harsh and soothing
My yoke is bitter and sweet
My paths are winding and straight
My Words are of fear and of love
I bring drought before the deluge
pain before deliverance
sickness before healing
hunger before nourishment
for it is in thirsting
that you seek my life-giving water
it is in grieving
that your soul is cleansed
it is in pain
that I draw you close to Me
it is in loneliness
that you seek Me to love
go forth and teach others then
of My cruelty and My kindness
My storm before the lull
My hell and My paradise
it is in suffering and in grief
that My kingdom comes to you
it is in sharing My cross
that you find salvation
I empty your body so I can fill your soul
I make you poor so I can enrich you
I burn your home so you can seek My shelter
I make you sick so you can seek My healing
I make you wander in the desert so you can find My path
I bring darkness so you can seek My light
I give deliverance only after pain
I am the Hound of Heaven in search of lost souls
first I sanctify you by sharing My cross
then I make all things beautiful all in My time
be reverent to the poor and powerless
if they are right and you are wrong
that is the measure of humility
be defiant to the rich and powerful
if they are wrong and you are right
that is the measure of courage
humility holds in awe the good in small people
courage fights the evil in powerful people
be as gentle as the dove and as wise as the serpent
...it's a decision, and it's not the easiest to make.
"When you feel abandoned by God, yet continue to trust Him in spite of your feelings, you worship God in the deepest way."
Faith is the one thing left that I hold on to. Because of faith, I can be strong (even when I feel I am at my weakest).
Heb 11:1-2, 8-19, articulates this thought very nicely.
Brothers and sisters:
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence of things not seen.
Because of it the ancients were well attested.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place
that he was to receive as an inheritance;
he went out, not knowing where he was to go.
By faith he sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country,
dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise;
for he was looking forward to the city with foundations,
whose architect and maker is God.
By faith he received power to generate,
even though he was past the normal age
--and Sarah herself was sterile—
for he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy.
So it was that there came forth from one man,
himself as good as dead,
descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky
and as countless as the sands on the seashore.
All these died in faith.
They did not receive what had been promised
but saw it and greeted it from afar
and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth,
for those who speak thus show that they are seeking a homeland.
If they had been thinking of the land from which they had come,
they would have had opportunity to return.
But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one.
Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God,
for he has prepared a city for them.
By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac,
and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son,
of whom it was said,
Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name.
He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead,
and he received Isaac back as a symbol.
Brothers and sisters:
What more shall I say?
I have not time to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah,
of David and Samuel and the prophets,
who by faith conquered kingdoms,
did what was righteous, obtained the promises;
they closed the mouths of lions, put out raging fires,
escaped the devouring sword;
out of weakness they were made powerful, became strong in battle,
and turned back foreign invaders.
Women received back their dead through resurrection.
Some were tortured and would not accept deliverance,
in order to obtain a better resurrection.
Others endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment.
They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at sword(s point;
they went about in skins of sheep or goats,
needy, afflicted, tormented.
The world was not worthy of them.
They wandered about in deserts and on mountains,
in caves and in crevices in the earth.
Yet all these, though approved because of their faith,
did not receive what had been promised.
God had foreseen something better for us,
so that without us they should not be made perfect.
Is work the punishment of God to man after Adam and Eve were driven away from Eden?
Fr. J. says no. "There’s work even before sin came." (See Genesis 1:26,28.) Read this wonderful encyclical Laborem exercens for an exhaustive discussion of human labor. Here's something from the introductory text:
"Man is made to bein the visible universe an image and likenes of God himself (Gen. 1:26), and he is placed in it in order to subdue the earth (Gen. 1:28). From the beginning therefore he is called to work. Work is one of the characteristics that distinguish man from the rest of creatures, whose activity for sustaining their lives cannot be called work. Only man is capable of work, and only man works, at the same time by work occupying his existence on earth. Thus work bears a particular mark of man and of humanity, the mark of a person operating withint a community of persons. And this mark decides its interior characteristics; in a sense it constitutes its very nature."
A lot of people look completely askance when they hear the phrase "will of God." "What is the will of God for me?" The answer to this nervous question is, "It depends." Are you referring to a particular difficult situation or to your whole life or your life ahead? In whatever case, though, there is a set of contants to consider.
The will of God (I forgot to cite the Scriptural basis) is:
1. for us to be holy
2. to rejoice
3. to remain faithful.
Know more about the healing power of Jesus Christ in His servant, the miracle worker, Fr. Fernando Suarez. Be a witness to miracles, physical healings! Be healed!
Authority in the context of a Christian community is about giving personal direction, for someone to be formed to be like Christ. Christian authority is not the same as corporate rules; the focus is on the heart, not the law.
Authority consists in:
- helping building up the Christian community
Authority is also about giving direction for a life of service. But we, followers, are not under directon for our personal life. In life-changing decisions, it’s still the person’s decision that counts. The bottom line of Christian authority is the care and protection of an individual member.
Posture of a leader: Governing authorities should have a reverence for the responsibilities entrusted to them.
A Christian follower has a submissive spirit. He/she has a posture of humility.
Submission involves more than obedience; it means being faithfgul to things entrusted to the individual follower. It does not mean passivity but proactivity.
Submission is also a kind of protection from self-delusion.
Submission, though, has limitations:
- if leaders give something not in line with Christian statutes,
- if leaders tell followers to do something that is clearly a sin or wrongdoing,
- if leaders tell followers to do something against their conscience
In the Christian setting, correction is always done in a loving way (Eph.__). In submission, the model is always Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:_-11).
"Love one another both for and of Christ."
unless a grain of wheat
falls to the ground and dies
it remains a grain of wheat
but if it dies it bears abundant fruits
whoever loves his life loses it
whoever hates his life attains it forever
whoever serves Me must follow Me
where I am My servants will be
for the Father honors
whoever serves Me
His voice that comes from heaven
did not come for My sake but for yours
now is the time of judgment
the rulers of this world shall be driven out
when I am lifted up from earth
I shall draw everyone to Me
john 12:24-33 [x1374]
as the body grows weak
the spirit grows strong
that is the principle of life
death is a mere fulfillment of life
what we do for ourselves dies with us
what we do for others is forever
we make a living by what we get
we make a life by what we give
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