St. Paul is incarcerated probably in Ephesus after drawing the ire of both Jews and Gentiles for his proclamation of the Gospel. He writes to the Philippians about discovering the secret of “being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need.” He states what this secret is, “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.” After many years of achievements and successes in a difficult and trying ministry, St. Paul affirms that he does not place any iota of trust in himself, anything or person but in Jesus Christ alone. Placing all his trust in Jesus alone, St. Paul has such vision and inner strength to do, overcome, and endure anything. We become confused, weakened, and disillusioned when we place any trust in something or someone else apart from God.
This is not a new secret that St. Paul just happened to discover. Jesus gave us the secret earlier when He said at the Sermon of the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, the Kingdom of heaven is theirs.”(Mt 5:3) It is the poor in spirit, those who refuse to place any trust in anything or person that is not God, that will have the insight to recognize the overwhelming beauty and glory of the Kingdom and have the strength to enter into it.
Jesus’ parable in today’s Gospel about the Kingdom of God shows a king graciously inviting all people to his son’s wedding banquet, “They gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests.” The man who tried to remain in the banquet without a wedding garment is an example of a person who places his trust in himself. He thinks that he is okay just the way that he is with his old garment. He does not accept the wedding garment that such a rich host would typically provide free of charge to his wedding guests so that they identify themselves with the wedding party and share their joy. He thinks that it is good enough to just show up as if he is doing the king a favor. He ends up being thrown out losing his freedom, “Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
Here are some signs that indicate that we are placing only partial trust in Jesus and knowingly or unknowingly placing trust in ourselves, others or in other things: We become selfish because we want to please ourselves in all things and always. We are easily and frequently overcome by sin because we become discouraged by our weakness and failures or we have an exaggerated sense of our strength that we rashly meddle into occasions of sin. We find ourselves in wishful thinking that God’s Commandments will change instead of trying to obey His Commandments with the help of His grace. We feel so special that we take exemptions to the Commandments. We are not open to a deep conversion and repentance from our sins because we do not place our trust in God’s grace and we trust in our own self-righteousness. We do not persevere in prayer because, depending on our own strength alone, prayer will appear superfluous and unnecessary. We lose our desire to serve God and do His will because the most important thing in life becomes us and our wants, feelings and desires. We hardly forgive others who offend us because we cannot acknowledge or accept our own sinfulness and need for divine mercy too and we are excessively attached to our hurt feelings and moods. We cannot forgive ourselves for our failures even if we claim to have accepted God’s forgiveness. We worry so much about the future that we begin to accumulate and horde material things selfishly. We walk away from the Sacraments because we say to ourselves, “I can do without these Sacraments,” “I don’t feel I get anything from these Sacraments.” “Why should I confess to a Catholic priest when I can just confess to God directly and receive forgiveness?” It is difficult for us to accept that God can bless and lead us through human persons like the saints because we think, “I do not need to pray to Mary or the saints. I can go directly to Jesus.” Most importantly, we cannot persevere in the spiritual life without complete trust in God but we will give up and lose the prize of eternal life, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”(Lk 21:19) Though we have been graciously invited into God’s Kingdom, we cannot hope to be in communion with Christ and the saints in the eternal kingdom if this is our attitude, “Therefore the wicked shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.”(Ps 1:5)
I heard recently of a young high-school student here in the Manila area who was a gifted and attractive student, doing brilliantly in school, and excelling in sports and other extracurricular activities. She was the star of her class, the one who brought joy to all in the class. It was sad to discover recently that she always wore long sleeve coats and shirts because she was hiding the deep self-inflicted scars on her arms. She had been cutting herself for many years and had attempted suicide many times. I regret to say that I have heard numerous such stories.
Why are many of us, especially our young people, depressed and suicidal today? Why do we lose the strength to keep fighting in this life? Why do we get so confused and disillusioned about life that we want to terminate the gift of life that God has given to us? Maybe we need to examine how complete our trust in Jesus is today and ask, “Do I trust in Jesus completely and in Him alone?” How firmly grounded are we on the secret of the chosen, “I can do all things in Him (alone) who strengthens me?”
We can easily say that we trust in Jesus. But let us ask ourselves honestly, “Do I have complete trust in Jesus and in Him alone?” Is there something or someone else in whom I am depending on to provide strength and light to me in this painful journey of life? Am I also placing part of my trust in wealth, fame, popularity, success, power, relationships, careers, pleasure, etc.? Confusion, darkness, weakness and loss of hope come about when we place any trust in creatures and not on the Creator alone who has become man for us in Jesus Christ.
Our God cannot be accused of being wicked in any way. If He has created us for Himself and has prepared a banquet for us with Him for all eternity, if He has willed the death of His only begotten Son Jesus Christ for our own salvation, how then can He refuse us anything that we need to be with Him in Paradise? Jesus Himself calls us to have this complete trust in Him, “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.”(Lk 12:32) We only have to have 100% trust in Jesus alone, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, have faith also in me.”(Jn 14:1)
Let Mary accompany us to Calvary where we will learn from her how to place all our trust in Jesus and in Him alone. Authentic devotion to Mary leads us to place our trust completely in Jesus Christ because Mary always and unfailingly leads us not to herself but to Jesus alone. She teaches us to always trust in Jesus alone as her voice echoes in our hearts, “Do whatever He tells you.” Mary is our prime teacher of the secrets of the chosen ones because it is in Jesus alone that she found strength and vision to stand on Calvary even as she watched Jesus her Son die on the Cross and to wait in unshakable hope for His Resurrection in those darkest hours.
Christ is in us and we are in Him through our Eucharist today. “Many are invited but few are chosen.” Good or bad, we are now the invited ones in His kingdom and our garment is complete trust in Jesus alone. We now know the secret of the chosen ones. Let us live out this secret always no matter what life may bring our way with the conviction that we can do, endure, and overcome all things, definitely not in ourselves or in anything or anybody else, but in Him and in Him alone, Jesus Christ, who always strengthens us.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!