On following the path of Jesus

WE have a saying in theology that Jesus Christ is the Sacrament par excellence. This statement does not only mean that Jesus is the Word made flesh or the Living Bread that came down from heaven, but it also means that Jesus embodies the whole Law of God. It’s why He says in the Gospel of Matthew this Sunday that he came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it.

During His life on earth, Jesus embodied the Law of God by his total obedience to His Father and by his selfless service to God’s people grounded in perfect love, mercy, and justice. His life, death, and resurrection fulfilled God’s Law.

And so, Jesus is the ultimate criterion of who we should be as a human race and as children of God. We have to look up to him and follow His path of love and mercy to fulfill God’s commandments. We have to shadow his life if we want to live meaningfully and joyfully and if we want to receive eternal life.

The reading from the Book of Sirach (15:15-20) this Sunday also reminds us:  “If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live.” For us Christians, this means that we need to believe in Jesus Christ who showed us the Way of Life and to trust in His words. Only then can we truly live!

Jesus Christ is “God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory, and which no one of the rulers of this age knew…as it is written: What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him, this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” (1 Cor 1:6-10) Jesus is the lamp that cannot be hidden under a bushel basket (Mt 5:15) and the light that must shine to all men and women.

Those who live, proclaim, and fight for the Law of God, embodied in Jesus Christ, would be blessed and will not live in darkness. We will shine like the stars of heaven.

And so, we must persevere in faith, despite any opposition to God’s commandments and personal struggles. Certainly, it is not easy to follow the path of Christ because it entails a radical living out of His Gospel such as forgiving one’s enemy, not looking someone with lust, being faithful in marriage, and making a full commitment to serve others. But with Jesus on our side, the grace of the Sacraments of Church and the support of fellow Christians, we can overcome our difficulties and endure our sufferings.

In the Beatitudes, which we heard last Sunday, Jesus affirms our fidelity to God’s law by saying: “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” (Mt 5:12)

Indeed, may we never lose our zeal for the Gospel. May our lives and our words continue to embody the ministry of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1999-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of ImmAaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.

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