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  • Writer's pictureThe Hermit of Antipolo

Built On Rock (A Perspective on Covid - 19 Part 16)

Today’s readings:

Acts 4:1-12

Psalm 118:1-27

John 21:1-14

“The Lord chastised me harshly,

but did not hand me over to death.”

(Psalm 118:18)

Our MFC theme this year is “Built on Rock.” It is also related to COVID-19, as God continues to speak to us and teach us.

The reality is that God does chastise His people, at times severely. “The Lord chastised me harshly” (Ps 118:18a). This is due to sin in our lives and a world that is steeped in evil. God’s intent is to bring His people back to Himself.

How does God accomplish this? He calls our attention by disciplining us. But we need to listen to and heed what He is imparting to us. Then we must repent of sin and turn to faith in Jesus. This happens when Christ is proclaimed, we hear, and we believe. It has been that way since the Church was established on the day of Pentecost. By means of Peter and the early Church, “many of those who heard the word came to believe” (Acts 4:4a). Such is the work of evangelization. Faith comes through hearing the word of God.

How crucial is this work? It is absolutely critical to one’s eternal destiny, for one to be saved and make it to heaven. Salvation is only in Jesus. “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” (Acts 4:12).

Unfortunately, Jesus has been rejected by many. He is opposed by a fallen world. He is abandoned by lapsed Catholics. He is betrayed by even some clerics, some of them in our Church hierarchy. This is much like what happened to Jesus, who was persecuted and put to death by the elders, priests and scribes. And then the religious leaders persecuted his disciples as well. “While they were still speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees confronted them, disturbed that they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.” (Acts 4:1-2).

There are those Church leaders today who condemn proselytism, which is actually evangelization. It is an effort to bring about religious conversion. In fact, the Jews who converted to Christianity were called proselytes. It is the very work of our Church, which is missionary. There are those in our Church today who teach that all religions are valid and are ways to God. But how can that be, if there is no salvation except through Jesus?

But though rejected, Jesus remains as the Rock upon whom we built our house. As Peter told the leaders and elders, “He is ‘the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.’” (Acts 4:11). As the psalmist says, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” (Ps 118:22).

And though we may be persecuted for sharing Christ, we are to continue to do so. As MFC, as members of the Catholic Church, that is our life and mission. There will be challenges and trials, oppression and persecution, suffering and pain. All the more, we need to be founded on the Rock that is Christ. He sets us free. “In danger I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.” (Ps 118:5). With the Lord helping us, we overcome obstacles and are assured of victory in our mission “The Lord is with me as my helper; I shall look on triumph on my foes.” (Ps 118:7). If this is the case, then we need never be afraid. “The Lord is with me; I am not afraid; what can mortals do against me?” (Ps 118:6).

Many Christians today are no longer sharing Christ. Our Church seems to have lost her missionary fervor. This is always a danger. Even the apostles at first seemed to have lost focus. Even as Jesus had already appeared to them and sent them to continue his work, they went back to fishing. Jesus had to remind them of their mission. Jesus again did the miracle of having them catch a great deal of fish. They were reminded that they were to become fishers of men.

The disciples caught “one hundred fifty-three large fish” (Jn 21:11). Jerome claimed that Greek zoologists catalogued 153 species of fish. So this number signified their universal mission. They were to go to the ends of the earth and make disciples of all the nations. This is our call too.

So we must persist in this most important and critical aspect of our faith. We must share Christ so people can meet Christ and start to live Christ. So they will be filled with the Holy Spirit. So they will be in awe of the Father. And so they will experience the fullness of mercy of a loving God. “Let those who fear the Lord say, his mercy endures forever.” (Ps 118:4).

With God’s mercy, there is salvation. With salvation, there is deliverance, from sin and the effects of sin. With deliverance and restoration, we can be set free from God’s chastisement, in today’s case, COVID-19. “The joyful shout of deliverance is heard in the tents of the righteous” (Ps 118:15a).

We continue to fervently pray for this pandemic to pass. But we must know that only God can cause this to happen. We are healed only in the name of Jesus. In speaking of the cripple who was able to walk, Peter said, “then all of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed.” (Acts 4:10).

In our desperate situation of COVID-19 today, we must know that only God can save us. “I was hard pressed and falling, but the Lord came to my help. The Lord, my strength and might, has become my savior.” (Ps 118:13-14). We must continue to be built on Rock. We must continue with our mission. We must rely on the power of God and the name of Jesus, especially as we face opposition from the world. Though surrounded and seemingly overpowered, we trust in God and claim, “in the Lord’s name I cut them off.” (Ps 118:10-12).

Many have already died from COVID-19, and many will still die. But the greater tragedy is the spiritual deaths that rage throughout the world. Those who die of COVID-19 when in the state of grace will find themselves in heaven, so death is gain. But those who die in serious sin will end up in hell. That is eternal loss.

While much of the world is focused on finding a cure or vaccine for COVID-19, we already have the cure for spiritual infirmity and demonic infection. It is Jesus. Those of us who have been brought out of spiritual death and who know Jesus have the responsibility to make him further known. “I shall not die but live and declare the deeds of the Lord.” (Ps 118:17). Then, as we are used by God to become instruments of blessing to others, we ourselves, as first responders, will be greatly blessed. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Ps 118:26a).

“Lord, grant salvation! Lord, grant good fortune!” (Ps 118:25).

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