Moments

Sincerity of heart

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The story is told about a little girl who prayed: “Lord, I’m running late for the Mass. Please help me!” As soon as she said that, she tripped and fell to the ground. Whereupon she said: “Lord, I asked you to help me, not push me!”

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In today’s Gospel (Mk. 12, 41-44), Jesus reminds us that God does not want to “push” people to do good. On the contrary, God wants people to do good out of sincerity. It is not so much the quantity as the quality of our giving that matters, as Jesus pointed out often when He put value to the widow’s mite rather than to the rich people’s surplus wealth.

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As God does not want to push people, it is equally true that He does not want to be “pushed” by people. Nor can He be. It is wrong and presumptuous on our part to think that we can manipulate God. God’s ways are not man’s ways.

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In June 1987, when my father was fighting for his life at the ICU in St. Luke’s Hospital, I prayed so hard to make him live a little bit longer. I bargained and haggled with God, reminding Him that my father was a good man. Besides, I told Him in earnest, was not my being a priest and a missionary to Korea reason enough to let my father live? I even stayed every night at the emergency room, blessing and anointing the sick and the dying just to somehow “push” the Lord to listen to my prayer! But all that did not work. My father eventually died on June 23, after 10 days at the ICU. I must admit that it took me some time to accept God’s will. Eventually, I did. Now I know that indeed, we can propose but it is God who will ultimately dispose.

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And yet, this God who cannot be “pushed” can in His own terms and time, be moved by a simple and sincere heart. He is so big, yet He can stop for a child, or go out of His way for a repentant heart!

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Last November 3, an Airbus 330 plane, already about to go onto the runway, went back to the tarmac because one passenger wanted to deplane. Philippine Airlines’ Flight 408 from Manila to Osaka in Japan was delayed for an hour because the pilot, Capt. Percival Padla, decided, upon the recommendation of purser Ingrid Nakpil, to heed the wish of a Japanese national not to take the flight anymore because of his sickness which he said was contagious. I thought that was very good of PAL to consider the safety of all its passengers, even if it meant loss of time and revenues. And throughout the flight, I was filled with reflection on the goodness of our great God, for whom every person is worth stopping for.

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In our recent trip to Akita in Japan, we had Taka as our guide. He is an unbeliever, but I was very edified by what he had shared with me. According to Taka, he is doing good things because it is the right thing to do. In other words, goodness itself, not pressure or reward, is the reason for doing good. He also said that what is important among us is respect for and appreciation of each other. In terms of faith and spirituality, Taka may be considered “poor,” but his is a good heart filled with sincerity and love.

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We have 11 Filipino SVD missionaries working in Japan, where less than 1 percent of the population is Christian. Fr. Chito Lorenzo, SVD, who has been in Japan for the past 22 years, shared with me that in terms of quantity and activity, missionary work in that country is slow. Their mission is to stay on, to be with the Japanese people, even if only to become witnesses of our faith (“ad testimonium fidei”).

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Come to think of it, what can we really give to God? All we have is from Him. Our very way of life is from Him. All our so-called achievements are made possible because of Him. All we can really give back is our heart and our free will, and our loving obedience. All He asks of us is our heart that loves Him in return.

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“If religion were a thing that money can buy, then the rich would live, and the poor would die!” Thus goes a song in the 1960s, which reminds us that God cannot be appeased and heaven cannot be bought by worldly riches. To those who broadcast their material contributions to charity or to the church, please remember that “the gift without the bearer is bare.” Generosity must be accompanied with spontaneity, sincerity, and secrecy.

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Someone sent me this text message: “P-U-S-H means Pray Until Something Happens!” I think the better meaning would be Pray Until Someone Hears. We don’t make things happen by our prayers. Ultimately, it is He who hears, and who makes things happen.

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Think about this: “There comes a moment each day when we must simply drop what weighs on us, and hand it over to God. May the Lord bless us with what we pray for, reward us with what we work for, grant us what we hope for, and above all, surprise us with what we have not asked for.”

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A moment with the Lord:

Lord, more than what I do and what I have, I offer you my heart, my sincerity, and love. Amen.

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