Heaven

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter
30 April 2016

There’s this saying that “A man without a culture is like a zebra without stripes.”

Culture here should not be reduced as mere ‘refinement’ or ‘class,’ for it is more than these. Culture is the very fabric which influences us as a nation. But then again, we also influence it in return.

Think of the expressions which have seeped into our common lingo, “Ikaw na!” or “E di wow!” or “#hugot.” I am not here to assess whether they are good or bad. But this is my point, they have found a way, or better yet, we have allowed them entry to become part of our culture.

We’ll be able to appreciate the first reading (Acts 16:1-10) if we have a working knowledge of the culture of the Jews in the time of the first Christians. We heard that Paul wanted Timothy to join him in his missionary expedition. And in order for Timothy to be efficient in proclaiming the Gospel, Paul had him circumcised.

In the context of the 21st century civilization, nobody cares if one is circumcised or not. But circumcision heavily matters for the Jews, then, and even now. And for someone who claimed that he belonged to God, he needed to have a proof that indeed, he is one. For them, circumcision is an unmistakable evidence that one represents God. This would ensure Timothy’s acceptability to the Jews whom they would be evangelizing.

This is where the genius of Paul lies. His passion to propagate the Gospel transformed him to become someone who is sensitive to the dictates of the culture, yet without compromising the demands of the Gospel.

By virtue of the sacrament of baptism we received, we are not only expected to preach the Gospel. It is our duty to live it, in both our words and deeds.

Benedict XVI reminds us that the world offers us comfort. But lest we forget, we are not made for comfort. We were made for greatness.

This is why perhaps Christ in our Gospel today (John 15:18-21) prompts us to the truth that we do not belong to this world. In his letter to the Philippians (3:20), Paul confidently claims that heaven, not earth, is our home.

However, more than geographical, our Lord Jesus highlights the fact that because we are not of this world, our destiny should not be different to that of His. He too did not belong to “this world.” He too was hated. It is to be expected that being a believer will incite others against us.

The concept of Christians being persecuted is not a thing of the past.

Let us not just think of our Christian brothers and sisters in the middle east whose lives and limbs are in great danger because of the ISIS. Let us not just think our Christian brothers and sisters who cannot freely express their love for Jesus in countries which forbid this.

Let us also consider ourselves. We who are Christians in a country where Christianity is very much in the air we breathe. But we run the risk of not giving importance to it because it is just there.

Let us beg Jesus to strengthen us so that we could continue to preach His Gospel through our lives and that He may fill our hearts always with the thought that we are not of this world. This leads us to be more conscious of our baptism, and of our identity, and of our real abode.

Heaven.

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