Found this amusing post by my former student in our school for girls last Wednesday:
“Minsan nakakatamad ang mag-isa eh,
Mag-isa kumain, mag-isa magpa-check up, mag-isa bumili ng gamot,
Mag-isa magsimba (kasi wala kang ka-ama namin),
Mag-isa sa biyahe (sa tricycle special trip ka tuloy mas mahal ang bayad).
Haist…you don’t have any choice but to make the most out of yourself na lang…
Always me time. #justsaying

Although Ehla is already working in one of the leading medical centers in the country – still single and highly eligible for her beauty and brains – I still consider her along with her classmates in batch 2010 as my youngest children or bunso, reminding me of that biblical passage “out of the mouths of babes come wisdom.” And humor.

 After checking the “Like” button, I commented on her third line on going to Mass alone: “Ehla, talagang mag-isa lang ang mag-Ama Namin; hindi naman dapat magkapit-kamay sa pagkanta nun gaya ng gawa ng karamihan. Kung gusto mo, ibeso-beso mo mga katabi mo sa kiss of peace.” (Ehla, singing the Our Father is supposed to be alone; no need of holding each other’s hands nor stretching arms like the priest as most people do. If you do not want to be alone, try kissing your seatmates on their cheeks at the kiss of peace.) According to the rules of the Mass, only the priest as presider of the celebration of the Eucharist is supposed to stretch his hands in praying the Our Father while the members of the congregation reflect on its meaning- as an individual- in preparation for the personal encounter with Jesus in the Holy Communion.

But beyond the guidelines of the liturgy, it was during that time when I remembered too today’s Gospel that tells us, eventually in this journey of life here on earth, in the end, only I and Jesus would remain together. While it is true that sometimes Ehla’s observation that being alone could be so tiring and sad, it is the reality of life that leads us to fulfillment in Christ! Being alone is not a negative but a positive thing; anyone can be alone without being lonely while there are those in a crowd and still lonely. Being alone is positive because it is openness to be with God who created man in the beginning in solitude to be first with Him as per St. John Paul II. We were first created alone, without a partner in the other account of creation in Genesis so that we could be with God in eternity. Priests and married couples in the long run end up in the same situation of being alone. For us priests, that is guaranteed for sure. But also with married couples who, someday, would be left behind by their spouse, later by their children as they raise their own families. When we die, we are alone – but with Christ who leads us to the Father. We bring nothing when that inevitable day comes and that is why we are being asked by Jesus while here on earth to start renouncing our possessions to be with Him.

Great crowds were travelling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Lk.14:25-27)

Once again, the Lord is insisting on the need to renounce everything and everyone, including one’s very self in order to follow Him by carrying one’s cross. We have heard it before but what makes this different in His previous declarations on the journey to Jerusalem is the setting: Jesus was addressing not a mere crowd but those who have more or less committed to follow Him. Included in that great crowd is us who must have that attitude of being focused at the fulfillment of the journey to Jerusalem like the builder of tower and king in the following two parables by Jesus. Notice how He capped His teachings today without making direct references with the main characters of His parables,“In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” (Lk.14:33) Jesus did not say “like the builder of the tower” or “like the king” because He is addressing us His followers considered as steeped in His ways, in His very Person which is the stress of His teachings today.

Discipleship in Christ requires tremendous sacrifices like renouncing self and beloved, possessions and things because it is about following the Person of Jesus, not His doctrines. It is His very person we follow, we love, and we serve that St. Paul repeatedly stressed in his writings: “the life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me”(Gal.2:20); “For me, life means Christ; hence dying is so much gain” (Phil. 1:21); and, “I have accounted all else as rubbish so that Christ may be my wealth” (Phil.3:8). Today, the great Apostle shows us what is to be in Christ when he took care of the slave Onesimus who had fled from his master Philemon. During that time, it was a crime to welcome an escaped slave but instead of dwelling into the technicalities of the law as well as of slavery in fact, St. Paul reminded Philemenon in sending him back Onesimus that we follow a Person in Christ Jesus: “Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord. So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.” (Philemon 15-17)

What a beautiful piece and guide for us today in doing everything in the name of Jesus Christ, something very close to the thoughts and life of St. Mother Teresa who is due for canonization today in Rome. Discipleship in Christ is indeed so radical for it requires us to get into the very roots (radix) of our personhood that in order to reach that, we have to let go of so many things even persons. And the great surprise is that in our very roots, we find Christ as our source and fulfillment where He keeps on “turning to us” like in that scene with the crowds, always looking back to see if we are still able to follow Him. If we should fall or get lost, Jesus is always there with His love and mercy which is the Gospel next Sunday. Our role in this journey as we renounced everything in following Jesus, let us never leave His side, always praying to Him, seeking His wisdom to guide us in being His disciples for “thus were the paths of those on earth made straight.”(Wis.9:18) A blessed week ahead to everyone!

Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II,
Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista,
Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.