Question: What is the best way to go to heaven?
Answer: Turn right, and go straight.
In today’s Gospel (Mt. 10, 37-42), Jesus tells His disciples, “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” Beyond righteousness and clean living, Jesus asks all of us to give more than what is required, what is expected, what is proper, and what is just. He asks us to go the extra mile, to make the sacrifice, to walk the earth, and to walk our talk.
The problem with many so-called “religious” people is that they can become proud and complacent to the point of feeling privileged or entitled, ultimately falling into the trap of spiritual pride. There is a thin line between righteousness and self-righteousness, and many people caught up in the latter don’t even see that because their eyes are blinded by bias and pride.
Jesus cautions us today not to be calculating and manipulative in our giving. The truth of the matter is that many of us give with strings attached, and even with ropes tied as a leash on the necks of the recipients of our benevolence and generosity. Giving makes us happy. True. But true giving is giving with little or no consideration of our personal happiness, agenda, or reward.
How giving are you? Are you “give na give,” or are you just “one give,” “two gives,” “three gives,” and can’t quite come up to “four gives”? The bottom line is that which has always been said: “Give until it hurts.” So if it does not hurt, if it does not even make a dent, then we are not truly giving—yet. And the best giving is thanksgiving. In fact, all our giving must be motivated by, and must continue out of, gratitude.
I thank God for having been given the chance to participate in a closed and silent retreat at Monte Oliveto Monastery in Siena, Italy, together with 41 other participants from 41 countries that was facilitated by Fr. Lawrence Freeman, OSB, head of the World Christian Meditation Group. It is in silence that we can really listen to God, know Him, and know who we really are. We have to rediscover meditation, which makes us still and be present to God. Some people are very prayerful, mentally and orally prayerful, but hardly listen to God. “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46, 10). We have to learn to give time to God in prayer, not on our terms and conditions, but on His own terms and conditions. Meditation is prime-time prayer, when we come before God in silence and emptiness, just trusting Him, and being open to His love, peace and healing.
Someone once said: “It is better to have a heart without words, than words without a heart.” That is so true in prayer. That is so true in daily life as well. We all should talk less, and listen more. So much noise and chatter in the media, whether in the traditional media or social media. Let us start this quieting down in our homes and communities. When we are silent, we can truly listen.
Since Mama died in 2014, my siblings and I have always felt her presence and affirmation through feathers. At opportune times each of us have experienced her presence, assurance and approval, and this I did when I was walking to the church in the monastery of Monte Oliveto. There it was on the road: a big feather, telling me that Mama was happy and that Mama approved.
Heaven is real. Our Tia Betty shared with us her beautiful dream about our Tio Ben, who died last May 14 at the age of 100. She saw him young and handsome, with smiling eyes, and they danced with so much love and joy. After their dance, Tia Betty saw Tio Ben beside a wall, and his body passed to the other side. She saw a beautiful valley as the wall started to disappear, and he was gone, with peace and a smile!
A moment with the Lord: Lord, help me to live a life of full giving and thanksgiving. Amen.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.