Are you ready?
Are you ready to be a genuine, loving disciple of Christ? And for this to happen, are you ready to live your life as He did, whether you are single or married? A life of mercy and compassion. A life of boundless love. A life of suffering, death, and resurrection. No conditions and expectations, as one author puts it. The great adventure of faith.
Mercy and Compassion. Jesus proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom all around Galilee and cured every disease and illness among the people. Moreover: “At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt. 9:36). He then commissioned His 12 apostles to go to different places to cure the sick, drive out demons, cleanse lepers and proclaim the Kingdom of God.
He even violated the Jewish law of not picking grain on the Sabbath because His apostles were hungry and needed to eat. “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Mt. 12: 7). Not only that. Later, on another occasion, big crowds followed Him in a deserted place. When He saw them, again, his heart was moved with compassion for them, and he cured the sick among them. It was already early evening, and so his disciples asked Him to send the crowds back to the villages, so they could buy food for themselves. Jesus told them to just share their own food with them. But His apostles said that they only had five loaves and two fish. Again, from a compassionate heart, Jesus performed a miracle of multiplying the bread and fish until all were satisfied. There were about 500 men, not counting the women and children. And 12 baskets of food were left over! Another miracle of mercy and compassion.
Jesus performed many more miracles out of mercy and compassion. Just to mention a few more: a woman suffering from hemorrhage and the daughter of Jairus whom Jesus brought back from death to life again. Let me single out the raising of Lazarus from death to life. “And Jesus wept.” So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” To contemplate a weeping Jesus for a dead friend is very inspiring indeed.
Boundless Love. A scholar of the law asked Jesus to test Him: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest? He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandments. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments’” (Mt. 22:36-39). And the climax of that is the following, as expressed by Christ: “But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistrust you…. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them…. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful as your Father is merciful” (Lk. 6:27-36).
Moreover, Jesus really lived what He taught His apostles and us: “Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:26-28). For instance, the spiritual conversion of the tax collector Zaccheus is very inspiring indeed. The people were scandalized in seeing Jesus go to the house of a public sinner. But the more significant happening was Jesus’ expression of love for Zaccheus, which ended up in the spiritual conversion of Zaccheus. When everything is said and done, God’s never-ending love and our response to it is the one and only real meaning of human life. Yours and mine. And everyone else’s life.
Suffering, Death and Resurrection. Jesus was born poor and grew up a simple carpenter. He was tempted by the devil but He refused to give in. “The Lord, your God shall you worship and him alone shall you serve” (Mt. 4:10). As simple as that. But it did not end there. His divine decision to come down and become one among us is the beginning of our own salvation through love. Love and all it takes is the answer. And this is where suffering comes in, as an integral part of loving. In the life of Christ, and in the life of every human person. In your life, and in mine.
Human as He was, Jesus even prayed: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will” (Mt. 26:39). This was followed by the betrayal of one of his apostles, and so Jesus was arrested. Even his very trusted apostle Peter denied knowing Him to save himself. When interrogated, Peter swore twice to save himself: “I do not know the man” (Mt. 26:72-74). We can just imagine how hurting this was to the human Jesus. He was finally sentenced to death, mocked by the soldiers, and crucified on the cross. The human Christ even cried out in a loud voice: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46). Jesus breathed his last, and His close friends and followers buried Him.
But divine that He was, Jesus resurrected on the third day. And finally, before His ascension into heaven, the Risen Christ told his apostles: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…. and behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt. 28:18-20).
Just last month, in Davao City, at the height of a fire at the NCCC Mall, Melvin Gaa was already able to save quite a number of his fellow employees. But he insisted on going back to the burning building to save more. And in the process, he was killed by the fire. No less than an example of a Christlike suffering and death. In faith, I know that like Christ, Melvin, too, is now resurrected with Christ somewhere! May each one of us follow, in our individual and unique ways, the example of Christ in this suffering, death, and resurrection. All of this resulting from LOVE. Amen.