Moments

Bearing fruit

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The story is told that during the visit of John Paul II to the Philippines in 1995, a high government official shocked everyone when he was heard saying, “Anti Pope!” When asked for an explanation, he said he was one of those who had been waiting (antay) for the Pope, following him wherever he went, and waiting for the chance to be blessed by him.  Antay nang antay kay Pope!

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In today’s gospel (Lk. 13, 1-9), Jesus tells us about the parable of the fig tree that was fruitless. But instead of cutting it down right away, the gardener suggested that they wait for another year, cultivate the ground and fertilize it, so that the tree may bear fruit in the future. Our God is a God who waits, who gives us all the chances to live fruitful lives. Let us not keep the Lord waiting, for He is also a God to whom, sooner or later, we will make our final accounting.

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Are you living a fruitful life? Or are you like the fig tree, merely occupying space and exhausting the soil? To whom much is given, much is also required. Let us make sure that we do not spend our lives getting all and having all, giving nothing and leaving nothing behind. When we reach our sunset years, may we not be filled with regrets that we had lived an empty, meaningless, and fruitless life.

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“If you do not repent, you will perish.” The Lord tells us today that without true repentance, there can be no true living and no fruit-bearing. “Have mercy on me, oh God, I am a sinner.” Unless and until we have deeply experienced the reality of being a sinner and being forgiven, we may end up living mediocre and calculated lives, filled with complacency, conceit, and spiritual pride. Repentance is the fertile ground where true living and real loving really begins.

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I met him only once, some five years ago, and the next time I saw him, he was already in a coffin. Upon the request of his Filipino wife, I had gone to visit Wolfgang (a German national living in the Philippines) to talk to him and bless him. Here was a good man who was full of pride and hatred, and who had turned to alcohol for comfort. It was a short encounter which ended in a prayer, and with Wolfgang accepting my blessing. I gave him a scapular which he never removed, and which he wore to the very end—a sure expression of a troubled man’s true repentance, and his deep faith and goodness within.

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Election time is inspection time. Let’s take a good look at our public servants and distinguish those who are fruit-bearing from those who are just occupying space. It is the perfect time to precisely cut down those who are just exhausting the ground, so to speak.

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Let us continue praying that the College of Cardinals, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, will elect a good tree, a tree that will bear good fruits—fruits that will last! Come, Holy Spirit, we need you!

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A prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI: “Lord, your servant, Benedict, has dedicated and given his life for the Church and for you. Please protect his health as he grows older, so that he continues to serve you in prayer. Amen.”

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A prayer for our future pope: “Give us, oh Lord, a leader who will unite your Church and lead her into deeper dialogue with Mother Earth and with the modern world, especially with the youth, the unchurched, the poor and marginalized, and those of different faiths and religions. Give us a Father, who will lead us into the ways of truth and humility, and inspire us to become bearers of faith, hope and love in this fast-changing world. Amen.”

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Speaking of fruitful trees, we salute Domingo and Pastora Tapiador, who have five children, two of whom are priests—the late Fr. Gerardo “Gerry” Tapiador, SSL, and Fr. Adriano “Bogs” Tapiador, SJ. Blessed are they who are generous to the Lord and to His people. In saluting them, we salute parents whose lives continue to bear fruit abundantly and generously.

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March is graduation month. Congratulations to the graduates and to those who have cared for them. Drawing from the lessons of the parable of the fig tree, let us not focus only on one’s career path but on one’s service path as well. In our desire for our graduates to become successful and financially secure, let us not forget to point out to them the importance of goodness and service. May the Lord help us to live not only successful lives but, more importantly, meaningful lives.

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A prayer after a long, hard day: “Lord, thank You for today. Tomorrow is a new day, and hopefully, a better day. I pray to see the light of another day. Amen.”

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Think about this for Lent: “The more we are humble, the less we tumble; the less our ego needs praise; and the more our spirit receives grace.”

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A moment with the Lord:

Lord, remind me that life is not so much about getting as giving and fruit-bearing. Amen.

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