A Reflection of the Sunday Gospel Reading
By Bro. Ron Calderon, CJM
During the papal visit of Pope Francis in the Philippines in 2015, I was able to join the youth encounter with the pope at the University of Santo Tomas. I accompanied youth delegates from a catholic high school as a chaperone, unaware that the message of Pope Francis for the youth would also shake me. I cannot forget the most striking words I heard from Pope Francis talking animated at the center of the stage in front of the UST football field, and his words that shook me started with this: “You lack only one thing.”
I was working in the university as a math teacher at that time. I rent a studio near the university and I was living an independent life. My life was comfortable, I could travel once in a while and usually hang out with friends on my spare time. I attend mass about five times a week and I sing in a choir that serves in Sunday masses. I also tutor poor but promising students occasionally as part of my personal apostolate.
I thought back then that I was living a good Christian life, yet, the words “You lack only one thing” resounded at the core of my being.
I realized I was living a comfortable, self-sufficient life. God was present in my life but He was not the captain who steers it, but only a first mate, as I steer my life to a direction I thought I knew was the Godly path.
Indeed, like the rich young man in the gospel and many Christians today, I lack one thing.
Pope Francis continues: “How many young people among you are like this? You know how to give and yet you have never learned how to receive. You still lack one thing. Become a beggar. This is what you still lack. Learn how to beg. This isn’t easy to understand. To learn how to beg. To learn how to receive with humility.”
When we have become materially sufficient, we forget to allow God to steer our life toward Him. We allow ourselves to be clouded by the the wisdom of the world. And so the Lord one in a while knocks at our front door to remind us that we belong to Him. The only way to receive Him completely is to provide our Lord space in our life.
This requires a humble letting go of the many things we’ve accumulated in our life that are really unnecessary. We need to let go of material possessions that only make us worldly. But more importantly, we need to let go of our ego that prevents us to see God’s hand in our experiences everyday. God could be speaking to us through events and people that we ignore because we lack the humility to slow down and observe how the grace of God works even in the commonplace and the things we thought are “trivial.”
Pope Francis emphasized in his speech: “You still lack one thing. Become a beggar. This is what you still lack. Learn how to beg. This isn’t easy to understand. To learn how to beg. To learn how to receive with humility. To learn to be evangelized by the poor, by those we help, the sick, orphans, they have so much to give us. Have I learned how to beg? Or am I self-sufficient? Do I think I need nothing? Do you know you too are poor? Do you know your own poverty and your need to receive? Do you let yourselves be evangelized by those you serve? This is what helps you mature in your commitment to give to others. Learn how to open your hand from your very own poverty.”
Pope Francis is right. If we let go of our possessions, especially our ego, we then realize how poor we are in some areas and we begin to allow God to work his hands on us through other people, perhaps even through the poor and the marginalized that we ignore and take for granted.
In our Gospel, we see that once again St. Peter provides the right response to our Lord. “We have given up everything and followed you.” A true Christian is meant to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. Unless, we give up everything, we will always fail to allow ourselves to be ruled by his gracious and merciful love.