On keeping the lamps of our faith burning 

WE know people who recovered from a stroke, survived a cancer, or escaped a fatal accident. We may think that they have learned and lived the most spoken lesson that “life is short and we must live each day as if it is our last.” But they will honestly tell you that it’s not always the case for them. It’s because the present life has its way of distracting us from this wisdom or truth.

Ronald Rolheiser agrees with this observation in his reflection on this Sunday’s Gospel in liturgy.slu.edu. He writes: “Today there’s a rich literature that offers us all kinds of advice on how to get into the present moment so as to be awake to the deep riches inside our own lives. The distractions and worries of daily life tend to so consume us that we habitually take for granted what’s most precious to us, our health, the miracle of our senses, the love and friendships that surround us, and the gift of life itself. We go through our daily lives not only with a lack of reflectiveness and a lack of gratitude but with a habitual touch of resentment as well, a chronic, grey depression…We are very much asleep, both to God and to our own lives.”

Indeed, the Gospel this Sunday (MT 25:1-13) urges us to stay awake for we know neither the day nor the hour. More than the consciousness of the end of times, it tells us to be good stewards of our lives, to keep the lamps of our faith  burning with oil—ever zealous of the Gospel and untiring in living and proclaiming  it fruitfully and boldly—so that the light of Jesus Christ will shine in the darknesses of our lives and the world.

The lesson of the brevity of life is not a cop-out for us not to live life to the fullest and share whatever gifts or talents we have. It’s not an excuse for laziness, mediocrity or mere indulgence in the pleasures of life. Rather, it gives us more reason to live meaningfully, joyfully, selflessly, and generously.

How can we keep being awake to this truth of the Gospel? Fr. Ron Rolheiser advises us to “have regular spiritual rituals, spiritual alarm clocks, to jolt us back awake—so that it doesn’t take a heart attack, a stoke, cancer, or death to wake us up.”

Being awake, therefore, entails a life of prayer and contemplation of the Gospel and the spiritual wisdom of the saints and the Fathers of the Church. It involves a constant feeling of gratitude to God for his overflowing and undoubtable mercy for each one of us despite our sinfulness. It is a life of hope that is grounded in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and celebrated in  Sacraments of the Church.

Being awake is the consistent desire of our souls to thirst for God, to gaze at the loveliness of His heart, and to seek His face. It is to long to be with God at the end of our lives on earth.

Being awake is to live in the present moment and to look forward to a life of eternity with God, our Creator and Father in fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. 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 (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate 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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