Monday, September 27, 2021

| The Spiritual Gift

"For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine." - Rom 1:11-12



Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash



Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

Have you ever heard a famous saying, “A good Roman can go anywhere”? The intention of the statement is that the solid understanding of the book of Romans helps Christians to understand all the other books of the Bible - the Old Testament and the New Testament. Studying Paul’s epistle to the Romans, we can learn the content of the Christian faith like nowhere else in the New Testament.

Paul opened his letter with greetings and his longing to visit the Christians in Rome, and meet them in person. So that he might use his gift to strengthen the Christian Romans'  spiritual life. (v.11), after that, he hoped that they might be mutually encouraged by each other's faith (v.12).

What are the spiritual gifts? Some of us think they are prophesy, healing, miracles, teaching, preaching, wisdom, etc. Actually, it is more than those just listed. According to its original language (v.11), it is the gift of faith, knowledge, holiness, virtue. Such as, when someone needs to vent, we are there to listen without any judgment and interruptions. When someone is in a challenging situation, we are there to encourage. When someone is lonely, we are there to care. When someone is weak, we are there to support. So a spiritual gift is an ability given by the Holy Spirit to express our faith effectively (in word or deed) for the strengthening of someone else’s faith.  It is not important to label the deeds as a specific spiritual gift, but it is important to have much desire to strengthen people’s faith.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, for our own reflections:
- Have I asked God to give me a pure heart to be led by the Holy Spirit?
- Have I asked God to let me cross the  path of someone at the end of this day so that I can share my spiritual gift to strengthen him/ her in God's promises and be more joyful in His grace? 

Amen. God bless you.



Reflection on Romans 1:8-15 by Veralin Uneputty

Thursday, September 23, 2021

In Gentibus | Among Gentiles

“And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ” - Romans 1:6



Dear brothers and sisters,

One day, I was asked to celebrate a Eucharist in an orphanage community in Jogjakarta, Indonesia. This was a special moment for me as I could serve those who are marginalized. Most of them do not know who their parents are because since they were babies they were brought to this place and fostered by some religious sisters. Not only that, some of them are disabled children. After celebrating a mass, we had a wonderful moment together when we danced and sang together. I could see how happy they were in their personal circumstances. I realized how important a community that grows and brings love to one another is. Besides, to convince these members that they belong to one community and they are not alone. To make sure that these children are accepted because feeling accepted has a massive impact to grow their self-esteem as this world promotes a “throw-away culture”.

If we reflect on what Paul the apostle said in his letter in Romans 1:6, he emphasizes the community life. It means that we cannot live alone in this world, we cannot rely on ourselves for our power. We need others to complement ourselves as human beings. From others, we can learn a lot of things such as being gritty, perseverance, resilience, and commitment. Moreover, our community life must be centered on Jesus Christ. By this, we can release and let go our egoism, arrogance and self-importance to establish peace and equality then serve Jesus who is present in those who are suffering and marginalized.

Indeed, we are called to belong to Jesus. Sometimes, we feel unaccepted by our surroundings. We are removed from our family, community, or society but remember that Jesus is always with us. He never lets us walk alone. Once we belong to Jesus, he will live forever in our hearts.


Reflection on Romans 1:1-7 by Fr. Aris Mada, SVD

(Listen to the Podcast here)

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Cognoscere | Examine Yourselves

"Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?... " - 2 Cor 13:5 (ESV)






For today's verses, I want to focus more on the call for self-examination.

It is a call Paul makes on the last chapter of this book, and it is a relevant call then as much as it is now. We are given this golden opportunity for a pause – in a pandemic nonetheless. It has personally given me so much time to reflect. The world slowed down and most of us found ourselves separated from our usual routines and distractions. It is such a blessed time to self-examine, to go deep into ourselves, and hopefully find Jesus living in the depths of our hearts.

The verses today remind us that even if Jesus was crucified, He lives by God's power – the unimaginable blessing of allowing our weakness to turn for God's purpose and glory. I will always be in awe as to how God never conforms to the ways of this world and has always set the path for the truth. He sees the glory in what may the world see as weakness, and he sees life that can come from the death of Christ. His love sees us through, and I will always be in awe.

And finally, I have always sought the blessings of others upon me. There is such anointing in saying "God bless you". There is power in God's Word, and I find it strengthens further when it is said upon you – "May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."

I wish this upon you, brothers and sisters. Rest assured you shall be in my prayers today, and I ask the same of you – that may God be glorified as we pray for each other.


Reflection on 2 Corinthians 13:1-14 by Blessie Sto Tomas

(Listen to the Podcast here)

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Libentissime | Spend Myself

"Now I am coming to you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you... I don't want what you have - I want you... I will gladly spend myself and all I have for you..."  — 2 Cor 12:14-15 (NLT)





Apostle Paul emphasized that his ministry to the Corinthian church was not for profit.  Why did the Apostle Paul make this affirmation?  The reason was because at that time, there were "fake apostles" who preached the word of God in order to earn money.  The apostle Paul did not want his ministry to be hampered because of money problems.  Therefore, he refused to accept money from the Corinthian church.  Instead, he worked hard as a tentmaker (Acts 18:3).  Since the Apostle Paul's motivation in serving was to do God's will, not to seek profit, he did not want his ministry to be disrupted by money matters.

The attitude of the Apostle Paul teaches an important thing: our service in the church should not be based on the motivation to seek profit.  What about each of our services? If we still have a desire for profit in our service, we must evaluate our love for God and for others.

Currently, many medical personnel and volunteers are giving their time and energy freely. There are others who donate blood, distribute masks and food for no charge. At home, we see a housewife cooks for her neighbor who is in self-isolation.  Some of us comfort friends who are sick or grieving and pray for them.

Ironically there are also those who are always looking for profit and do not want to lose anything.  They do not want to give up their money, time, positions, nor status.  Because of their greed, the safety of many people was neglected.  The desire for profit will ignore many while the desire for self-giving will save many.

 

Reflection on 2 Corinthians 12:11-21 by Fr. Fransiskus Diaz, SVD

(Listen to the Podcast here)

Friday, September 17, 2021

Excusemus | Defending Ourselves

"Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? ... everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening." — 2 Cor 12: 19 (NIV) 

Photo by Papaioannou Kostas on Unsplash

In this passage, Saint Paul expressed his concern for the Corinthians. He was worried about their behavior and reactions which adhered to their personal principles which he found difficult in respecting others.  They did not even respect Paul who was responsible for them at that time.  As the person in charge, of course Paul felt pressured by the situation he was in.  However, he had to straighten out the situation, he had to express how he felt about the community, whatever the cost.  And so, in Verses 20 and 21 Saint Paul expressed his heart clearly to them.

Living in today’s world, whether we are given the task of being in charge or even any other tasks, in the course of time each of us is going to encounter various difficulties, obstacles and challenges, both from friends, others and even from ourselves.  Facing such a complicated problem, will there be a solution if we just sit back and wait for a change?  Of course, not.  Like Saint Paul, we must have the courage to express what we feel.  Whether it’s anger, disappointment, sadness, hurt or satisfaction, happiness or any other feelings, we should express them so that our friends especially those who are working with us can understand the situation we are struggling with.

Through Saint Paul, Jesus is telling us that our struggles as Christians are quite difficult.  Intense communication with God and others will greatly help us continue the pilgrimage of a more fruitful life in developing God’s kingdom in this world. May God give us peace.



Reflection on 2 Corinthians 12:11-21 by Sr. Yanti Purnawati SFSC

(Listen to the Podcast here)

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Virtus in Infirmitate | Perfect in Weakness

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” - 2 Cor 12: 9 (ESV)

 



The Apostle Paul knew very well that he was remarkably blessed with extraordinary experiences with the Lord. He saw and heard things others didn’t. He was entrusted with divine revelations and visions even secrets. Such a privilege to be invited to God’s place. It was that great that he could easily boast on his personal achievements (v.4-5).

However, to keep him from becoming conceited or proud, God put a thorn in his flesh. To be more specific, “a messenger from Satan to torment him”.  He begged the Lord three times to take the thorn away but God did not grant it (v.7-8). One may ask, why was it important for God to put such a thorn in his flesh? Why is weakness a valuable perspective? Why not keeping him strong so he could work even harder for the Lord?

Let’s contemplate on our own lives. When we are weak, we seek for help, we are careful, we consider things comprehensively, but I think most of all, it forces us to depend on God – to put our trust and hope in Him. On the other hand, when we feel strong, we are confident, often careless, less calculative, might overlook any potential problems and mostly we trust our own selves – we don’t really need God. Arrogance separates us from Him.

There is a significant difference the Bible provides about this:

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord. For he will be like a bush in the desert, and will not see when prosperity comes, but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, a land of salt that is not inhabited. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water that extends its roots by a stream, and does not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought, nor cease to yield fruit.’” (Jer 17:5-8).

We think we knew already that we have to trust God. But to be honest, it’s not easy to depend on God completely, right? We want to add our own judgment and analysis. It’s hard to just keep calm and wait for the Lord. Our fear just pops up regardless the wisdom we gain. It is what happens to me in the matter of working to provide for my little family, although He kept me amazed with His own ways many times. We are prone to anxieties, while He prepares abundant blessings for those who trust in Him, but curses the other way around. The word ‘curse’ is a very strong warning. He wants to be our sole confidence - other than that is a disbelief.

Are we somehow helpless – spiritually, physically, financially? Moreover, after following Christ wholeheartedly, do we face more challenges and trials? Let’s rejoice, because we are about to see the magnificent work of God. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (v.9). Even Satan can be God’s tool for His purpose. Praise be to God - the powerful omnipotent One, nothing or no one ever exists can be compared to. Amen.





Reflection on 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 by Desire Litaay 
(Listen to the Podcast here)

Monday, September 13, 2021

Gloriatur | Boast (2)

"If  I must  boast, I will  boast of  the  things that  show  my  weakness."  — 2 Cor 11:30 (NIV) 


Photo by Luke Pamer on Unsplash



Reflecting on the Scripture text today - the life of Paul before and after his conversion experience on the road to Damascus. Before the resurrected Christ revealed His Divinity to Paul, with these soul-scorching words which burned deep into the core of his zealous Jewish soul, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?", Paul was in his own words, a Pharisee of Pharisees, a high flyer in the Jewish religious community and was armed with letters from the high priest to weed out (exterminate) followers of what he deemed as blasphemous teachings of Jesus. In this Divinely-appointed encounter, Jesus revealed Himself as the resurrected Christ and gave this fiery preacher a new Mission in life. A mission to bring the gospel to the Gentile nations and preach the Good News until his dying breath as a prisoner in chains.

Before his encounter with the Risen Christ, the Zealous Saul (the Apostle Paul), had relied on his human wit - being trained by Gamaliel, a man held in great esteem by all Jews, and faithfully adhered to complex religious rules that bounded the Pharisees. He had considered himself a man of God and for God, and had often boasted of his Jewish lineage and great learning to obtain letters to persecute early Christian followers. 

Yet in the aftermath of his Damascus encounter with the Risen Christ, his spiritual eyes were finally opened to see that Jesus was truly the Son of God, and the Promised Messiah whom all the Major and Minor Prophets had written about and longed to see in their lifetime. It was also in fact the fulfillment of all the laws with 2 beautiful Commandments that bounded all the Laws of God: 
"Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40).

This was why he was able to write with much joy even in the depths of suffering these encouraging words to the persecuted Christians in the church of Philippi, "If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead..." (Philippians 3:4-11).
Words that parallel what he wrote in his 2nd Epistle to the church in Corinth, "If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying." (2 Corinthians 11:30-31).

Therefore, my personal reflections in the light of Paul's writing is this: As a child of God, if there is anything to be boasted, it will be in God's love for me - a broken and sinful human, who was destined for Hell, if Christ had not revealed Himself to me as the Son of God, and living personal God and Saviour - and propelled me on this new life journey to proclaim His faithfulness and goodness in my own life until my dying breath. 

It's my prayers too, as we live in unprecedented times - where an invisible virus has confounded brilliant scientists and top government officials, while wreaking a horrendous toll in human lives and stalled economies - that the Church of Christ may rise up to proclaim the glory of our Risen LORD who has the power to raise the dead and heal the sick, in body, mind, and spirit, because we truly have no idea when our Lord will return to rule the Earth with His conquering heavenly hosts. Amen.

I will close with these Spirit-inspired words - written by the Prophet who had experienced much heartache in his lifetime, witnessing the apostasy of the nation of Israel, the departure of God's Shekinah glory from His Temple, and an unbearable desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem by a pagan king Antiochus IV in 167 BC:

"This is what the Lord says: 'Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,' declares the Lord. 'The days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh – Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab and all who live in the wilderness in distant places. For all these nations are really uncircumcised, and even the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.'" (Jeremiah 9:23-26).




Reflection on 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 by Chris Tan

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Gloriatur | Boast

"Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord" - 2 Cor 10:17.




We usually quarrel with people - even with our friends and family members - because we are too proud. For we know better. We are wiser than others. It happens everywhere. 

Apostle Paul teaches us how to be humble. You can be a leader in the company or a pastor in the church, but you need to humble yourself. You are not so important. Who are you that you boast? If you like to boast it means that you are "walking according to the flesh" (v. 2).

The evil spirits are much wiser than you. Only if you are a humble person, you can overcome those divine powers. For the Holy Spirit works on you when you humble yourself. You do not have to obey other people but Christ. Especially, in moral arguments and discussions about truth. You are to obey Jesus. The Son of God could achieve success in his ministry because he was obedient. He didn't follow only his knowledge, but fulfill the will of his Father. 

As Christians, we belong to Christ. Yes, we can boast but boast as humble stewards of Christ. Yes, we can boast because we are disciples of the Gospel. Let us always boast in the Lord, Jesus Christ. O Lord, help us to become more humble in all circumstances. May your Holy Spirit change our attitude towards one another. 



Reflection on 2 Corinthians 10:1-17 by Fr. J√≥zef Trzebuniak, SVD.
(Listen to the Podcast here)

Monday, September 6, 2021

Sufficientia | Abound in good work

"God can bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." - 2 Cor 9:8


Photo by Egor Myznik on Unsplash



My brothers and sisters, 

Near my community house, there is an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) where people can draw their money without going to a bank. In front of the ATM, there is an old woman with her stuff who is sitting there waiting for people’s generosity after drawing their money. Her life depends on people’s kindness. This old woman catches my attention every time I pass her because she reminds me of people’s relationship with God. Our life depends on God’s Grace and without God, we are nothing. Also, about human’s relationship in this world that we rely on each other.

As Paul reflects the Corinthians that God blessed them abundantly, God also blesses us in all things and all times. We can reflect on our life now, that what we have is from God and God always gives the best thing that we need. Undeniably, besides all the material world that we get in this life, we have Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son. This is a precious gift that we have. We may not have all things but by having Jesus, we are rich in faith, hope and love. Those aspects empower us to get through every situation we deal with. Hence, people who always see God as a guarantee will never lack in life.

Since God has provided such things that we need, God impels us to be generous to one another like what Jesus commands in Luke 10:27, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, love your neighbour as yourself”. Rethinking of the old woman that I use to see in front of the nearby ATM, and many people who are suffering, you and I could ask, how wide is our love to others as we love ourselves? 

Then Paul reminds us, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously”. This means that what we do will get back to us in return. Often, we are worried if what we give will not generate the same gain from others but indeed, God will measure our sacrifice and give us an indescribable gift.




Reflection on 2 Corinthians 9:1-15 by Fr. Aris Mada, SVD 
(Listen to the Podcast here)