F. A. T.
Be F. A. T.
There is this interesting story I've heard about a good old barber in some city in the United States. One day a florist goes to him for a haircut. After the cut, he goes to pay the barber and the barber replies: “I am sorry. I cannot accept money from you. I am doing community service.”
The florist is happy and leaves the shop. The next morning when the barber goes to open his shop, there is a thank you card and a dozen roses waiting at his door.
The following day, a policeman goes for a haircut and he also goes to pay the barber after the cut. But the barber replies: “I am sorry. I cannot accept money from you. I am doing community service.”
The cop is happy and leaves the shop. The next morning the barber goes to open his shop, there is a thank you card and a dozen donuts waiting at his door.
On the third day, a Filipino software engineer goes for a haircut and he also goes to pay the barber after the cut. But the barber replies: “I am sorry. I cannot accept money from you. I am doing community service.”
The Filipino software engineer is happy and leaves. The next morning when the barber goes to open his shop, guess what he finds there …
… Can you guess? … Come on, think like a Filipino … what he actually found was a dozen Filipinos waiting for a free haircut! ...
The Ordinary Time of the Catholic Liturgical Calendar focuses on discipleship and so today, on its 3rd Sunday, allow me to preach about three characteristics of a TRUE DISCIPLE of Christ as we reflect on today's readings:
1. Faithful “Pagiging Tapat”. Faithful people make good disciples. They can be trusted with important information and tasks. More importantly, they stand for what they believe in no matter what happens. In our First Reading, Nehemiah, the prophet, in his instruction, asked the people with these words: “Do not be sad, and do not weep” as they have been weeping when they heard the words of the law. Sadness, weeping and fear in the Old Testament could mean lack of trust and confidence in God. It goes as far as questioning the covenant of old between God and His people, Israel. If one is faithful, there is no place for weeping, sadness and fear as God takes over and makes us His own.
Archbishop Blessed Romero was a clear model of faithfulness. He was an outspoken defender of the poor and a critic of the state-supported “Death Squads.” To honor the memory of his martyred friend, Fr. Grande, who was shot and killed on the streets of El Salvador, he refused to appear in any public ceremonies sponsored by the army or the government. He soon became the voice and conscience of El Salvador. His words and actions were reported throughout the whole world, so that everybody knew the atrocities happening in El Salvador. Romero’s fight for human rights led to his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. On March 24, 1980, at 6:25 PM, as the Archbishop was offering Mass in a hospital Chapel, a shot from the back of the Church struck him in the chest, killing him instantly. Thus, Archbishop Blessed Oscar Romero died a martyr for the Gospel of Christ.
It may be too far-fetched for us to do the same thing as Archbishop Romero did for his people, but in our daily dealings with life’s struggles, we can stand for our faith and remain faithful to God.
2. Available “Laging Handa”. Disciples must also be available. This means they put their discipleship calling first in life. Availability is not a matter of being busy, but a matter of setting priorities. Available people will hear the voice of God and respond to it immediately. If we are available in this way, we will not make excuses but will look for a way to accomplish what God has called us to do. A true disciple should not put other things ahead of following Jesus. Besides, you do not go ahead of the person whom you are following.
Our 2nd Reading beautifully describes what the Church is: “The BODY though ONE, it has MANY PARTS!” We form an active role as “members” of those “parts.” As “gifted” sons/daugters of God, we have the responsibility to share those gifts of talent, time, treasure and faith to the community at large. How much time do we make ourselves available in line with Church ministry? When we go to Mass for example how do we make ourselves available in terms of spiritual and material preparation?
3. Teachable “Natuturuan”. Disciples also need to be teachable people. If they are unwilling to learn from others, they cannot grow. Being teachable does not mean being gullible. It means that we receive information with eagerness, but check to see if it is true to the Word of God. In other words, we do not only listen, but make sure that what we’ve listened to is according to the Word of God.
Disciples should listen to their leaders with an open mind and examine everything according to the Bible. In disputable matters, where it is unclear what the Bible says, disciples should give the benefit of the doubt to their leaders, who are accountable to God for their spiritual growth.
Final Remarks: More importantly, a true disciple of Christ is a person who is able, as narrated in the Gospel of Luke when Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah, “to bring good news to the poor; to proclaim liberty to the captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favor.” He ended the reading by saying: “This text is being fulfilled today as you listen.” As it is fulfilled in Christ, so must we proclaim those words in our very lives.
In the following Sundays in Ordinary Time, Jesus will be laying down elements of Christian discipleship. But for now, let us ask ourselves if we qualify to the characteristics, I just mentioned of faithfulness, availability, and being teachable. Let us make ourselves worthy disciples/followers of Christ and ask for God’s gift of grace that we may be able to pass the narrow gate. To be a disciple is not an easy task, but with God, WE CAN!
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