The bottom line


WE often speak of “the bottom line” — the bottom line of a financial report, an educational program, or a political speech.  In the grand perspective of life, however, a bottom line does not merely refer to a result or profit. Rather, it’s about the crux or the heart of the matter, the essence of who we are or what we’re called to be.

On this Thanksgiving weekend, we might ask ourselves about the bottom line of our existence, our relationships, our beliefs, and our Christian faith. In the end, what are we called to be in this world? Why do we exist? What’s the purpose or the meaning of our lives here on earth? What and why do we believe? What’s the essence or the heart of the matter of our Christian faith?

It’s good to think about these questions as we spend these somber season of autumn when we see fallen leaves on sidewalks and drive home from work on a cold evening when the days are short. It’s a good time to reflect on our accomplishments, our goals, and our heart’s desires. And as we heard in the Gospel readings these past Sundays, it’s the proper time to give an account to God about how we have become faithful and wise stewards of our lives.

On this Sunday of the Solemnity of Christ, the King, the end of the liturgical year, the gospel presents to us the “bottom line” of our faith through the following dialogue that cuts to the heart:

“I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothing. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.

“When was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? When was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you or naked and gave you clothing?

“When was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?

“Truly, I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these…you did it to me.”

Jesus tells us frankly the bottom line of our Christian faith. It’s how we have loved and cared deeply and generously, how we have helped people and made a difference in their lives, how we have done our duties and responsibilities to the people that God has entrusted to us. Indeed, it’s how we have become Christ to one another.

So the bottom line is not a lofty idea but a practical matter. It’s a meaningful life spent in real actions of service to our loved ones and neighbors, especially to those in want. It’s heroic charity in times of inconvenience and difficulty when some people test our patience.

This Thanksgiving weekend is a time for family reunions, eating, shopping, relaxation, and planning for Christmas and New Year. As we do these things, may we never lose sight of the bottom line, the heart of the matter of all these activities, which is grounded in the words, life, and mission of Jesus Christ!

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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 (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate 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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