THE GIVING OF SELF

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By Ronnie Caballero, BCBP Makati

“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:4

john 3-16Have you ever ‘gatecrashed’ a Christmas mass? Well, we unofficially did yesterday. A sister of the Missionaries of the Child Jesus ‘invited’ us to a private “family mass” to be officiated by the Rev. Fr. Catalino Arevalo S.J. a most revered theologian. Hesitantly, I agreed to the plan to attend with my whole family in tow with much high expectations.

Fr. Arevalo, whom I know is well into his 80’s, was to my surprise, sprite and vibrant in his celebration of the mass. Now secure with our seats there was nothing else but to experience the splendor of this faith experience.

The Gospel was from John 1:1-18, a seemingly deep piece of Scripture but nonetheless came out crystal clear on this day. Fr. Arevalo says, when God became one of us he basically declares that to be human is the most wonderful experience of all. To enter into humanity is to enter into the whole spectrum of human experience, joy, happiness, gloom, sorrow, pain and suffering. Fr. Manoling Francisco S.J. in another recollection aptly described it as ‘entering into the others chaos’. he defines Incarnation as “God’s self-emptying in order to embrace the condition of the beloved.”

In our acceptance of Jesus, God releases this unique power, ‘the power to become children of God.’ This power as shown by Jesus, who is THE WAY, is the power of self-donation. Fr. Arevalo exclaims, “The most important thing is not that Jesus died for our sins but that he came into this world to FULLY GIVE HIMSELF to US! Such that in following him in his example of self-donation, we will be untrue to our very being, our final and total happiness, if we do not give ourselves to the very purpose to which God had created us. We have a unique calling and purpose that which if we do not ascribe to, as God had called us, will derail the essence and total fulfillment of our lives.“

If we live our lives selfishly for ourselves, we will never find true happiness. He says that many people ON PURPOSE, veer away from an encounter with God, they do not want to know him, because in knowing him the true purpose of life will be revealed. Selfish people will not want that.

But the true and final purpose of life is to know, love and serve God. To find that special mission and will of God for us that will define why we are in this world. AND EVERYONE WAS WILLED BY THE LORD INTO BEING. THERE WERE NO ACCIDENTAL BIRTHS!, Fr. Arevalo stresses. We were, ‘born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by man’s decision BUT OF GOD.’ John 1:12-13
gift of self
God had made that decision to bring us into this world. Will we then stand up to do his will? To lose our life in order to gain it?

Almost exactly a year ago I was sitting in my room praying whether I would accept an invitation to attend an intense 18-day Accelerated Leadership Training on Evangelization. What I really was struggling with was my ‘comfort zone’. I felt that I had come to the period in my life when I no longer had ‘anything to prove’ nor ‘new mountains to climb’. Been there, done that. And so I thought! But the good Lord thought differently!

A closer examination of conscience that afternoon revealed to me that the Lord was still not done with me in delivering me ’blameless and pure” before the Father. “And this is my prayer; that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9

I remembered this little piece of wisdom: “The choice for the Christian is clear: either be sanctified in this life, through meritorious works and prayerful endurance of the sufferings and reverses that come your way, or do so in the next life (in Purgatory?) through suffering alone.” [The Protestant’s Dilemna]

Scripture says: “Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each man’s work will be manifest: for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” 1 Cor 3: 12-15

So did I go to that evangelization training? Yes. And when I arrived from that training the very next day I was asked to be part of the new MANCOM for Formation and Leadership Training. Did I say yes? Read all about it in my next few columns!

My only words then and now are, “Emmanuel, God is with us.” I echo the fiat of Mama Mary and put my trust in the words of the angel Gabriel: “Nothing is impossible for God.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us know, love and serve the Lord this Christmas season and throughout the coming years, as the Lord guides us on our journey of life with Him. He will complete the good work he has already begun in us!

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