Christ’s presence within us

“ The words of Jesus at the end of Matthew’s Gospel are the promise of Christ’s abiding love for us through His Spirit present in the world. “And behold, I am with you always until the end of times.”

IF you want to see an inspiring Christian movie that is still showing in some theaters, I strongly recommend “The Case for Christ.”

The film is based on the story of Lee Strobel, a hard-driving journalist who was at the height of his career as an investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune, when he came to terms with conflicts between his marriage and atheistic belief over the newfound Christian faith of his wife, Leslie.  A journalist who relied solely on facts to present any truth, he set on a mission to debunk the claims of the Christian faith on the resurrection of Jesus Christ by investigating the work of biblical scholars, archeologists, and medical doctors—all this work to save his crumbling marriage.

But to his surprise, he came face-to-face with unexpected results that changed his beliefs, saved his marriage, and transformed his life forever.

The movie makes us critically think about our faith as Christians and appreciate it more. As Christians, we do have to ask ourselves why we go to Church, why we call ourselves  Christians, and why we keep on believing. Is it merely because we were born Christians and grew up in this tradition and culture?  Or is it because there is something in the faith that drives us to believe, to trust, and to hang on and fight for our beliefs, especially in moments of crisis and tragedy?

For many of us Christians, it is not merely that “something” but that “someone” that makes us believe.  It is the Person of Christ, whose Spirit is actively present in our lives. His Spirits moves us to live and practice this faith, to proclaim it through words and actions, and to keep testifying to its transformative power.  His Spirit is alive in our churches and Christian communities. We feel his redeeming graces and love in the Sacraments.

The Gospel this Sunday speaks about the transformation that happened in the lives of the two disciples when they encountered the Risen Lord on the road to Emmaus. “Were not our hearts burning with within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” the disciples said to each other. They had this experience after Risen Jesus sat at the table with them, took bread, and said the blessing to remind them of that night he had supper with them before his crucifixion and death.

The same thing happens to us when we actively and consciously participate in the celebration of the Mass. The words of Jesus become alive during the proclamation of the Scriptures and the praying of the Eucharist. It is Jesus who speaks when the priest says the words of the Consecration:  “Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body, which will be given up for you…Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.”

The same things happen to us too when we feel our love for one another as a Christian family or as a Christian community. It’s the Spirit of Christ that enriches our relationships. Just like the dialogue between Lee and Leslie in The Case for Christ, we love each other more because of the love of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

The words of Jesus at the end of Matthew’s Gospel are the promise of Christ’s abiding love for us through His Spirit present in the world. “And behold, I am with you always until the end of times (Matthew 28:20)

Let us never doubt Christ’s presence in our lives. Let him find us whenever we hide, come near and be within us, into the midst of every trouble. Let him show us the new life he brings, open our eyes, and make our hearts blaze!  Amen.

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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1999-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of ImmAaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.

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