December 7, 2016
Dcn. Ben Sevial
In Proverbs 3:1-12, it says, “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments. For length of days and years of life and peace, they will add to you. Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favour and good repute in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones. Honor the Lord from our wealth and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine. My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord or loathe His reproof, for whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.”
This is the second Wednesday of Advent. During the first Sunday of Advent, the theme was “Disciples of the Way.” On the second Sunday, it was “Disciples of the Word.” We are in the Advent Season which means preparation. It is a preparation for the coming of Christ. Jesus does not fail to remind us of this because He uses symbols for us to know and to understand the things that are best for us and not to be led astray.
How many times do we fail to pay attention to His instructions? If Advent is for Sundays only, are we going to prepare for Sundays only? This is not so; we should always prepare in season and out of season. In every day of our lives – its minutes, seconds, hours – we are to be prepared because we face daily not so pleasant things in our lives. If we are prepared, then, we can handle them.
Advent is a countdown of Christ’s coming. The world has its own countdown. The four Sundays of Advent are our countdown in our Christian life. How do we prepare? Are we prepared or do we go with the flow of what is happening in the world? How about when it comes to the Word of God, God’s instructions, His commandments, and His statutes? We are losers when it comes to the world because we know more about the world than we know of Christ.
What are our preparations? Commercialism? Buying presents for our families and relatives? If this is our main focus in life, then, we lose the true meaning of Advent. Like Martha, are we busy with our preparations and yet, have no time for God or the Church? I know of a friend who goes to America before Christmas because he avoids giving presents to his godchildren. In my life, I never fail to give my godchildren presents for Christmas and this involves preparation on my part.
What preparations do you have in life? Do we run away from opportunities and responsibilities? Buying presents for Christmas is not bad, but if it takes away our relationship with God, then, Jesus is not the center of our lives so consequently, we do not attend Church.
As one of the leaders of the Church, I am very observant. Every Sunday, in every service, I know who are not able to attend Mass. Is it because it is Christmas? Maybe if we are undergoing trials in our lives, we would be present in the Church every day of our lives even if there is no Mass.
Are we really preparing for the coming of Christ? In preparation for Christ’s coming, there is cleansing. There is excitement and expectation. To repent is cleansing of our lives. The reason God tells us to repent is because, for one year, we had done many things against Him. We failed Him; we have shortcomings; we sinned against Him and to His people. We are told to repent and cleanse our hearts because Christ wants to live in our hearts. We, for one, would desire to live in a clean and orderly place. Christ wants us to repent so that when He enters, our hearts are pure.
Our theme for this Advent has the word “disciples.” I am a disciple of people. One year ago, I was in Kalibo and I discipled two people. Now, they are thirteen in number. When I am in Kalibo, one rich woman would always offer her hotel to me for an overnight stay. I would minister to this youth. Bountiful food will be served and one time, at 11:00 in the evening, a lot of youth gathered in a table and I asked, “What is the greatest fall in your life as a Christian?” Many cried, many opened up even though they did not know each other. After this night, they became closer to one another. I told them, “You all know each other’s life; now, you know how to deal with each other’s lives.” When it is their birthday, I would send money for them to celebrate their birthday and to bond with each other.
We want people to be closer to God. This is accomplished by each one sharing Christ, especially to those who are hopeless. The world needs Christians like you and me. Openness brings release. When you open your heart to God, there is a release. When we open up to a person, we become closer to that person. However, we are hindered to do this because people gossip about what we tell them. Let us be a trusted people so that people can open up to us.
One time, I went to Malolos, Bulacan and I was sitting in a seat that can accommodate three persons. One guy said, “Can I sit beside you?” I said, “Yes, you can; but why did you ask me that question?” He said, “I feel nauseated while traveling in motion.” In my mind, I thought that he might vomit on me, so I ask, “Did you bring a plastic bag?” He said, “I did.” On our way, the Lord spoke to me and He told me to talk to the guy and heal him. I began to minister to the guy. He was headed for Apalit, Pampanga. I alighted ahead of him and when we parted ways, he said to me, “Thank you.” I got his number and when I reached Malolos, I sent a message to him to ask if he vomited during the time I left him. It was his sister who replied and she said that his brother did not vomit. What happened after this is that the sister sent messages to me and opened up to me about her problem in her marriage and also asked for prayers for her sick child.
We are the hope of the world. The reason I am boldly sharing that we are the hope of the world because Christ is in us! If we will not speak out, how will the world know that their hope in Christ? Always see an opportunity. We have many chances to share Christ to others. We don’t know whom we are going to minister, but when we are prepared, there is nothing to lose because Jesus will not put us to shame.
One time, a friend approached me and said to me, “You know, Ben, I have this cousin who is dying. I want you to go to her house and do an Extreme Unction.” I agreed and I went to her house and when I saw the old lady, in my heart and mind, I felt that she was strong, but I still did the Extreme Unction. When I was doing the Litany, the Lord spoke to me, “After this, ask her, ‘Are you eating?’” After the prayer, I asked the old lady, “Kumakain BA kayo, Lola?” She replied, “Hindi nga nila ako pinapakain.” I called the daughter and told her that she has to feed her Lola so that she will regain her strength. It was only after two years that this old lady went to the Lord. What if I did not go? What if I did not speak the hope of Christ to her?
To be truthful to you, I feel bad when there are people who are not ministered to especially by the clergy. Maybe, I have all the time to do these things because I am not married, but I am very thankful for that because I could minister to a lot of people.
For the Magi, they were traveling on foot with their camels for almost two years and their guide was the star. The goal of the Magi was an opportunity for them to see Jesus. For us, when we encounter traffic, we don’t push ourselves to go to the place where we are supposed to be, so we do not reach our goal. It is easy for us to give up rather than to accomplish something. How can the world see that we are enduring if in little things, we easily give up? We complain when we are asked to give contributions for a Church cause. Blessings come in so many forms, but if we are insensitive, we cannot receive the blessing from God.
As a Church, we have been praying for our Church property for many years. Did we give up? If we did, would we see our land? We went through a lot of things for this property. When the Church building is erected, we would be so happy to see it. But, where you are part of giving to its cause? Did you pray for its completion? As a member, I am bold enough to say that from the beginning, I have been giving my offering for it and I could say, “I have the right to enter the Church and be there because I have given my best to the Church!” I am proud of our journey and a part of the Cathedral. I have always given to the land offering.
God has given an opportunity for us to participate in this. God gives us every day an opportunity and yet, we are so stingy. When it is time for the Offertory, some go to the Restroom. Are we not supposed to give our best to Him? God has given His ALL to us. We would say that He doesn’t need it, but He wants us to give so that we would be blessed. We are given by the Lord an opportunity for us to be blessed.
In my heart, I know that I would never lack because I am not a stingy person either to help and to give. Sometimes, there are questions, “Bakit on Church Hindi nagbigay? Hindi na ako magsisimba.” “Bakit ang Church hindi tumulong?” Bakit, tumutulong ka ba? “ Bakit ang mga leaders, hindi ako binisita?” “Nagsisimba ka ba?” Our hope is in Christ. The reason we are a hopeless people is because we are not trusting God and doing His commandments.
In our Church’s Medical and Dental Mission, 97 people got born again. If we did not accomplish this, can we have a proof to say that God takes care of the needy? It was nice to see the whole Body of Christ working together, especially the Counseling Ministry. One lady refused to be counselled saying that she was okay, but it turned out that it took some time before ministering to her was achieved. She ended up crying because of a release in her life. Another lady had so many dentists attending to her just to remove one tooth! After about 30 to 40 minutes, the tooth was extracted and everybody clapped! We should have this attitude that when we overcome our problems, we should be shouting and praising God!
During my high school days, I wrote in a slum book, “I wish you wish the wish you wish. I hope you hope the hope you hope.” As Christians, do not give up. We should be holding on to Christ. We are Christians because we are pro-Christ. Whatever we are going through, hold on to Christ. He is our hope, the hope of glory.
St. Francis, in his prayer said, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy.” As Christians, we should be a minister of hope to the hopeless and this is the Kingdom work.