I just had a thought about relationships looking like a series of concentric circles. The outer circle consists of our relationship to most other people in the world, the inner circle is with our family and friends and the innermost circle is our relationship with God. I thought also that the innermost circle should be strongest because the strength of the other outer circles depend upon it. Once the inner circles collapse, the outer ones would certainly follow.
Pope Francis visited the Philippines from January 15 to 19, 2015. He visited both Manila and Leyte. During this time, it’s as though time stopped for this country. A holiday was declared, many roads were closed. The media coverage was non-stop. All eyes are on the Pope as though God Himself has visited this nation.
I was not able to see him personally, but even from afar, I can attest that I have been very blessed. The whole nation has been blessed!
Lord, I have seen your salvation. And it belonged to those whose hearts are like those of little children!
As I’ve watched on television the motorcades, the encounters and the homilies of Pope Francis, God has made me understand many things, things I couldn’t grasp even with long hours of study, thinking or imagination.
Through Pope Francis, I was able to understand Jesus more, how He was like when He walked the earth with His disciples. Through His representative on earth, I was able to see Him better, as an image is made clearer if we saw it through a mirror that is clean and clear.
If the Pope, who is but a mirror of His image, could reflect such a great intensity of love, how much more if we saw Jesus face to face! If the Pope’s sincere gestures could evoke in us a gratitude and an awe at God’s mercy, how much more the infinite and unfathomable passion and suffering of Jesus Christ at the cross!
Indeed, it’s as though my spiritual eyes have suddenly been opened and I saw how God has saved His people, how He is even now constantly saving us.
God’s mercy is so great that He reaches out to the furthest corners of the earth. His mercy is so great that no darkness can overcome it! He has brought Light to the world and He seeks to bring His Light to the darkness where we are.
He is like the Pope who comes to comfort, inspire and console. He comes to meet us right where we are, in our emptiness and in our poverty, in our sickness and in our pain. Though we are in the midst of a fierce storm, He goes with us to make us feel that we are never alone.
God’s salvation is not such that He will immediately bring us out of this painful world. It is not that He would answer every question of ours. His Salvation comes through His presence, a presence that goes with us through our most painful sufferings.
God’s salvation comes through a Person, in the Person of Jesus Christ. In Him is love and beauty. In Him is mercy and compassion and kindness. In Him is a heart that knows how to weep with those who hurt.
We can argue with many things and fill our minds and our mouths with eloquent words and reasoning. But nothing can compare to the presence of the One who saves us!
For those who suffer, it is enough to see Christ. Words are sometimes silent. A warm embrace is enough. A glance of love is more than enough.
And we come to Him. We who are poor. We who are sick. We who are but beggars of His mercy and love. We come to Him like little children!
How hungry we all are for His love! How hungry we all are for His light!
And so we flock to Him. We follow Him wherever He goes because we know now that He is the Bread that can fill the hunger of our souls!
Once we see what we need, Who we need, an intense longing is stirred within our hearts that can never be quenched until we have found full possession of Him who is our salvation. When we finally know who can give us life and meaning and wholeness, we would gladly give away everything because everything else counts us nothing compared to the riches of Him who alone can give us joy!
And God so desires to give us Himself that nothing could prevent Him from saving us but our own pride.
Pride alone hinders us, because even when some see Him, His goodness and His mercy, His light and His truth, they choose to turn away and prefer their darkness over His light. Instead of rejoicing at His salvation, they grumble and prefer to exclude themselves from happiness. Instead of being enlightened with wisdom and truth, they choose to believe in their own lies.
And so it is that the humble are blessed. For it is the humble and the little children, the beggars and the sick, the old and the weak who ardently seek the face of Jesus. We don’t come to God with our self-sufficiency, with expectations of praise for our good works or our eloquent words. We come to Him empty-handed and willing to be filled! We come to Him because we love Him and because we know that He loves us.
Meanwhile, the rich and the strong think they have no need of Him. The self-righteous also are blinded by their own illusions of righteousness that they fail to see what true holiness means.
What do we expect God to do or to show us that we may believe? We may hear great words of wisdom. We may see true works of charity. We may witness sincere sacrifice out of pure love and mercy. We may see the deaf hear and the lame walk and even the dead to rise again to life, yet still not believe because of our pride and hypocrisy.
God seeks us all, but are we willing to be found? God desires to love us all, but are we willing to be loved?
Are we willing to strip ourselves of our self-centeredness so we can finally focus our eyes on Him who alone can bring us joy?
“The works that I do in my Father’s name, these testify about me. But you don’t believe, because you are not of my sheep, as I told you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give eternal life to them. They will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one… If I don’t do the works of my Father, don’t believe me. But if I do them, though you don’t believe me, believe the works; that you may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” – John 10:25-30, 37-38, WEB-BE
“Do you feel self-sufficient, and only offer something and think you have no need of anything? Do you know that you, too, are poor? Do you know the need to receive? Do you let yourselves be evangelized by the ones you serve?” – Pope Francis
Our problem with heaven is that oftentimes, our idea of it is quite vague or incomprehensible; we cannot look forward to it as we look forward with excitement and anticipation on earthly things within our grasp and understanding.
We see heaven as a far off idea that may be good, but not as good and as tangible as the things of the flesh. We see heaven as a place of rest, but also of boredom, a place that does not make our hearts beat with life and vitality. We see heaven as a place where angels dwell, but we care not for angels as much as we care for imperfect beings that amuse us at the moment where we are.
And that is why many begin to search for heaven not through the perfect picture they imagine it to be but through repulsion with the image of evil that they have encountered some time in their lives. Fortunate are those who have thus been hungry for they may be filled, for those who mourned for they shall be comforted.
But for the many who are content with the things of this world, how would they even know what they are losing? Woe indeed to those who laugh now and pride themselves with what they think they have, for they shall know how naked they truly are. Woe to those who are filled now, for they shall thirst and hunger for that which could give them joy.
To love the world is to be enslaved by it and all of its desires. God wants us to be free. And that is why He wants us to be detached from the love of the world. Because those who love the world and all of the corruptible things that are in it are at the power of those who can withhold such things from them, of men who don’t even care for your welfare but who seek only to gain power over you.
Sometimes, we first have to be so disgusted with ourselves and with the life we have made before we can surrender everything to God and receive the life He has in store for us.