It was my first experience anointing a parishioner in hospital. It was chaotic in the ICU as the doctors and nurses struggled to save the life of the man, while the family wept and prayed outside. I arrived holding my stole, ritual, and anointing oil. I was wondering, “What difference can I make at this time? Doctors and nurses, experienced in the science of medicine, labored frantically and appeared to be giving up hope that the patient’s life could be saved. And here I am with nothing but this blessed oil and prayer book?” I put these negative words behind me and proceeded to anoint the patient, giving him the last rites, commending his soul to the Lord Jesus and praying with his family before I left.
A few days later, as I was about to begin Mass in the parish on Sunday morning, I looked into the congregation to see the same man who was dying on the hospital bed a few days earlier! For a moment I thought I was seeing a ghost. He smiled at me, with his wife and children at his side. I then thought, “What the heck! It must be a smiling ghost!” We celebrated his miraculous recovery after the Mass and they said that he began recovering soon after he was anointed. His quick recovery shocked all of them, especially the doctors and the nurses. I tried to conceal my own shock too!
Anointing oil, prayer book, a newly ordained priest with a wavering faith, and a miraculous recovery from near death. What was the lesson here? I learned that I will see signs of the kingdom of God in my life if only I would give God a chance to act. I give God a chance when I choose to act with faith, pray with love, and surrender with unshakable trust in God. The ICU event that day was an act of faith in the sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ for His Church, a prayer of love when all seemed lost, and a surrendering and entrusting of the sick man to Jesus Christ, praying for his healing if it be His holy will; if He willed to take him home, so be it.
Jesus describes the Kingdom of God in today’s gospel saying that “It is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land.” This is an act of faith because the one who scatters must have faith that the seed will grow. The one who scatters must also be a man of hope who has trust enough not to lose his sleep, worry or be anxious about the seed planted, “He would sleep and rise night and day.” In his trust, he does not have to understand how the seed grows, “Through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.” He is also a man who is vigilant, watching with love for the visible signs of growth, “And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.” The seed with the mysterious life in it, the mysterious growth of the seed night and day, and the harvest are all from God. But, by acting in faith, hope and love, the one who scatters gives God a chance to manifest His kingdom through his effort.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are children of the Kingdom of God from the moment of our baptism. I believe that we do not see signs of the Kingdom of God in our lives because we simply do not give God a chance to act. We do not give God a chance to act in our lives because we do not act with faith, pray out of love for God and for others, and surrender all to Jesus because we trust in Him.
It is so easy for us to feel like we have been abandoned by God when we think of our sins, failures and trials in this life. We just fail to see signs of God’s reign in our lives and in our families. We have sicknesses, marital problems, financial problems, addictions, spiritual struggles, struggles in our vocations, etc. Things may also look dismal and gloomy in the Church, plagued with all possible scandals, lack of clear teaching, and departure of many of the faithful. The devil will taunt us and whisper in our ears, “Is this still the Church that is the seed of God’s kingdom?” People like Philippines President Duterte who will never miss an opportunity to tell us that the Church is plagued with sexual scandals from priests and bishops. All these will make us wonder if we at all we have been brought into God’s kingdom.
Instead of losing hope and doubting if we are really children of the kingdom, we must ask ourselves if we are really giving God a chance to act in our lives and give us signs of His reign in our lives. We have to ponder the following questions:
First, how deep is our faith? St. Paul reminds us in today’s Second Reading that, because “we walk by faith and not by sight,” we also “aspire to please God.” Is our faith alive enough to repent of our sins, obey God and to seek to please Him alone in all that we do or is our faith limited to notional assent to articles of the faith and devotional practices, completely unconnected to our everyday life? Is our faith strong enough to see that God is doing something and that His seed of life in us is growing mysteriously through the joys of days and the pains of the nights?
Secondly, how fervent is our love? Is our love for God and neighbor a vigilant love that is nurtured and expressed in deep prayer and in communion with God, ever attentive to the movement of His grace that prompts us to grow? Is our love vigilant for moments to prove our love for God above all persons and things, and even above self? Is it not true that our love for God tends to be more sentimental and measured by our current situation and life conditions?
Third, how firm is our hope? Is our hope in God so firm that we can freely and wholly surrender all to His holy will? Do we live with that conviction that God loves us more than we can even imagine and He desires what is best for us in each moment? Are we rather not more inclined to pretend to be in control of our lives and our conditions rather than surrendering to Him and allowing Him to reveal Himself to us in mysterious ways?
St. Paul assures us that “God had delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved son.”(Col 1:13) We are no longer slaves of the kingdom of darkness. We belong to God’s kingdom now and Jesus Christ longs to act in our lives and do great things through us and in us despite all our littleness, weaknesses, struggles and failures.
The Eucharist is Christ coming to us to nurture His life in us by His Spirit. It is by His grace alone that we can make any difference in this life, “Without me you can do nothing.”(Jn 15:5) But He will never force Himself on us. He will act in us and through us to the extent that we give Him a chance to do so.
We turn to Mary, the Mother of God. God did the most amazing thing through Mary – God became man through her, a virgin who also became Mother of God. She simply gave God complete authority and allowance to act in her life as He deemed fit, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.” She never doubted for once whether she was a prestigious member of the Kingdom of God or not even in the darkest moments of her life as she continued to live with faith, hope and love.
May we learn from our dear Mother Mary to do likewise in our lives today and give God a chance to act and reveal Himself to us, so that no matter what we face in this life, we will never have to doubt again whether we are children of God’s kingdom or not.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!