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Present in our midst

The story is told about a bishop who made a pastoral visit and was so impressed to see his picture hanging along with others on a wall of the dilapidated rectory. His picture was clean and spotless, but the others were covered with cobwebs. He thanked the priest for honoring him, whereupon the priest said: “Actually, Monsignor, I must confess that I hung your picture just an hour before you arrived.”

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In today’s Gospel (Mt. 124, 13-21) we hear of the multiplication of the loaves and fish, thus making possible the feeding of more than 5,000 people in the desert. The people were delighted with being fed, but soon after forgot what it was all about.

Jesus reminds us today to go beyond the surface, to dig deep, ponder and reflect in order to find real lasting treasures in life. Let us not be content with shallow remedies and palliatives.

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Jesus could have performed the amazing miracle on His own right away, but He involved the disciples and the people to make them realize their own power and potentials, and to make them learn deeper lessons and values in life. In other words, Jesus was not a “selfie” but an “usie” person! The Kingdom of God is within us, but it is also among us and between us!

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The late President Cory Aquino taught us about People Power, but we have not learned the lesson well. Power is from the people, by the people, and for the people. We have not learned this lesson at all if we still pin our hopes on some personality, or on a few politicians and government officials who, we believe, can change our lives. They won’t. For all we know, they are concerned only with their own lives and their personal agenda. With our present setup and leaders, there will be no real multiplication of the loaves and fish in the Philippines.

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Just a thought: What if Filipino politicians, government officials, brokers, middlemen, or “commissioners” were involved in the distribution of the loaves and fish? What if it was a Filipino crowd that gathered in the desert that evening? Would the goods have been diverted, or delivered? Would there have been order? Just asking…

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What mattered then, and what should matter now, is the presence of Jesus in the midst of the people. If a person, or a people, or a nation, would really listen to God, follow His instructions, and obey His commands, there would be enough for everyone, and there would be peace and order, unity, reconciliation, and sharing.

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Speaking of the Lord’s presence, He is still present in our midst, and He lives. In a special way, the Lord is present in the Eucharist, and He is present in each one of us. Unless and until we acknowledge, feel, and concretize His presence in our midst, we are just a crowd with no rhyme or reason, no purpose or direction.

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Today is the Feast of St. John Baptiste Marie Vianney, patron saint of priests and pastors.  May he remind us today that without prayer, we priests and all who claim to be followers of Christ could end up mere activists or functionaries without a Master, and become shallow, vain, proud and empty. Instead of multiplying, we may end up subtracting or dividing His presence in our midst.

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Last week I was at the Monastery of the Divine Mercy in General Luna, Quezon, a once-deserted place where Fr. Venancio Zoleta Jr. and his seven companions had built a bamboo chapel surrounded by their bamboo huts. There they live simple, indeed austere, lives according to the Benedictine Rule of  ora  et  labora  (pray and work).

On their first anniversary last July 31, people from all walks of life gathered on the hill to thank God for His presence and providence.  The people, especially those from Barrio Ignacio Ylaya, brought food and shared whatever they had, and there was enough for everyone. It was a real experience of a multiplication moment.

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Father Ven, 43 years old, has two brothers who are also priests—Father Bong and Father Felix—serving in the Diocese of Gumaca. After 16 years as a secular priest, Father Ven responded to his “vocation within a vocation” to start a monastery where priests and ordinary folk can come to pray, rest and recharge. He also envisions the place as a future refuge and shelter for retired priests. What an inspiring story, and what a noble endeavor. For inquiries, or for whatever support you can extend, Father Ven can be reached at 0918-6688471.

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Think about this: “God knows what your silent heart wants, even if you don’t include it in your prayer, He hears what your heart whispers. He may not give it to you now, but someday, when you least expect it, things will happen in the best possible way.”

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The Hearts of Jesus and Mary Parish (Daily Mirror Street, West Triangle, Quezon City) invites you to a communion of reparation and vigil every first Friday at 8 p.m. until 1 a.m. Saturday.

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A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help us to become aware of Your presence in our midst, and to make Your presence felt. Amen.

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TAGS: Catholic Church, Fr. Jerry M. Orbos, Gospel, Jesus Christ, Matthew, Moments, Multiplication of the loaves and fish, opinion, Religion, SVD
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