Friday, September 30, 2016

Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 2, 2016
Luke 17:5-10

“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you (Luk 15:6).

Reading through today’s Gospel, it seems to have faith is to perform some sort of magical power. If I have faith, I can create rice field on the seabed. If I have faith, I can made a Lamborghini car out of pile of garbage. If I have faith, I can transform my voice like Ed Sheeran. But, faith is not like that. It is not a magical show to entertain us. It is neither an instant answer to our wishes. Yet, it remains true that even the smallest of faith can make the difference.

Jesus spoke of faith as like the size of a mustard seed, that symbolizes our little faith. Yet even, this little faith can make a significant difference in our life, even to do the impossible. True, our lives practically do not change. We are still struggling with financial difficulties. We still need to deal with demanding bosses or terror professors. We are facing horrendous traffic everyday especially in big cities like Manila and Jakarta. We are battling various sickness plaguing our bodies and not knowing how to pay the medical bills. Yes, our lives do not change, yet at the same time, our little faith will make our lives never the same again. How is this possible?

With faith, we are empowered to believe in the unseen God. If we are able to see the unseen God, then we are also able to discover His unseen love and mercy working in our lives. God is not asleep and does not let us struggle alone with myriads of problems and stresses. We remember Peter, the man of little faith, who attempted to walk on the waters, but failed and began to sink. In his little faith, he saw Jesus holding his hand and thus saving him. Like Peter, we are falling into the ocean of difficulties, but we do not drown, because through our little faith, we see Jesus holding our hands.

We learn from many saints. Their faith does not make their lives any better. Many, like St. Francis of Assisi and St. Martin de Porres, remained poor through their lives like. Many still dealt with a lot of problems. Mother Teresa struggled to sustain her charity works and her young Congregation. St. Bernadette Soubirous endured severe pain due to tuberculosis of the bone. Martyrs were cruelly tortured and executed for this faith. But, this little faith have made them more generous, more persevering,  even more joyful in the midst of trials. As St. Lorenzo Ruiz, the Filipino proto-martyr, proclaimed when he was about to be executed, “I am a Catholic and wholeheartedly do accept death for God; had I a thousand lives, all these to Him shall I offer.” Faith does not take away our suffering, but it empowers us to see God. This is enough to change us.

Br. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

Friday, September 23, 2016

Lazarus and Us

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 25, 2016
Luke 16:19-31

“Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man's table (Luk 16:20-21).”

When Abraham said to the tormented rich man, “My child, you have received what was good during your life,” does it mean I will be thrown to the netherworld as well? I admit I have received so many good things in my life. I enjoy three good meals a day. I am studying in one of the best schools in the country. I do not have to worry about the security and future of my life. Many of us are enjoying the good things in this world, and we may ask ourselves, “are we going to have the same fate with this rich man in the parable?”

Reading closely on the Gospel, the rich man was sent to the netherworld not because of the good things he received in life. In fact, it would be unfair for him and for us. Many of us are working diligently and we deserve to enjoy our lives after all the backbreaking jobs. He was there because he did not care for Lazarus, his poor brother. If we pay attention to the proximity between the rich man and Lazarus, there is something unusual. Initially, Lazarus was outside the door, but then when he ate the food scraps that fell from the rich man’s table, he was actually inside the house. In fact, Lazarus was under the table of the rich guy. With this extreme closeness the rich man acted as if Lazarus did not exist. What sent him to the netherworld is not because of the good things he received, but his gross neglect and grave ignorance of his own poor brother. 

We may have the same fate as the rich man if we do not care for our poor brothers and sisters around us. In fact, our ignorance may be the cause of their poverty and misery. Sometimes, we just feel good after donating some coins to the beggars, but is that enough? Indeed, we cannot do much to help the thousands of refugees in war-torn Syria, but do we do something for those who are close to us? Are we too busy working and earning, so much so that we forget to share? Do we close our eyes to our relatives who are struggling with their children's education? Do we shield ourselves from the social issues in our society, like the increasing number of poor people being killed simply because they are thought to be small-time drug addicts?

We give thanks to God for the blessings and good things we receive in this life. Yet, we should remember also our brothers and sisters who are just outside our doors, those who are just under our table, waiting for our food scraps.

Br. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

Friday, September 16, 2016

Becoming Whole

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 18, 2016
Luke 16:1-13

“Make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings (Luk 16:9).”

We were created in the image of God. Thus, our true happiness is only in God. As St. Augustine would say, “You have created us for Yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” St. Teresa of the Avilla would echo the same truth when she simply said, “God alone suffices.” But, we were also born into the real human body within a complex and concrete world. As we journey toward God, we cannot totally separate our soul from the various mundane concerns. Even the monks and nuns living in monasteries will still work hard to fulfill their daily and basic needs. 

Our humanity and temporal aspects of our life are integral part of who we are. They are blessing and gift of God. We must not be enslaved by money, wealth and other material possessions. Certainly, easier said than done. Who among us are concerned with the latest version of our cellular phone? Who among us spending hours just to choose most fashionable dress? In a bigger scale, corruption, injustice and exploitation are the offshoots of this attachment to this temporal aspect of our lives. Thus, the proper and prudent thing to do is to place the gift of our body and temporal dimension of our life in the service of God and others. I do believe that in order to preach well, it is imperative for the preachers to take care of their health. As an ancient Latin proverbs goes, ‘Mens sana in corpore sano’ (healthy mind in healthy body). 

Learning from the parable of the dishonest steward, Jesus taught us to be like the steward in dealing with worldly things. In ancient Israel, for a master entrusting the business to his steward was a common practice. Some stewards would manipulate their position and raise wealth by practice of usury. They charged the borrowers of his masters’ property with high interest. Unfortunately, the steward was caught with this usurious practice as well as squandering his master’s wealth. To save his life, he chose to be smart. He met the debtors and to ask them to rewrite the debt’s notes. He decided to erase the interest that would go to him and let them pay the original amount. The borrowers would be indebted to him, and he might save himself. Like the steward, we need to know what truly matters for our happiness and salvation, as well as well aware of the place of worldly goods in the totality of our lives.

Jesus become a splendid example for all us. He is divine and spiritual being. He controlled the forces of nature, He overpowered the evil spirits, and He forgave sins. Though, He was divine, He did not disregard his humanity as useless. He, in fact, was humanly practical and respectful of His own Jewish culture. He observed Jewish traditions and customs, He worshipped God in the synagogues and He taught using the language that His original listeners would understand. Thus, He is truly God and truly man.  Indeed, our salvation rest in this balance and unity of this spiritual and bodily aspects of our humanity.

Br. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP