One of the most difficult things for Filipinos to do is follow the rules. Just look at:

               The way drivers make traffic worse

               How vendors conquer the sidewalks and streets

               Even Taal volcano evacuees defy rules insist on returning to danger zones

               The trash that follows the largest procession in the world at Quiapo reveals lack of discipline

If it is a rule, a commandment, a law, a directive, be sure that we are internally against it!

We may follow out of fear, conformity, or tradition, but our hearts rebel and we relish the thought we can do otherwise.

But then, bring a Filipino abroad and how he transforms! Imagine:

               Those in Saudi Arabia observe all the Islamic rules

               In the USA, they drive carefully and courteously

               In Italy, their work is impeccable and excellent

               The seafarers learn to cooperate and work as a team

In the Christian mentality, specially for Catholics and Protestants, a law or commandment is always seen as a burden, incompatible with freedom, with initiative, with welfare, with concern.

Growing up in our faith there have been “shoulds” and “should nots” that we have inherited and as soon as we can manage, we throw them away from our lives.

But what if we understand commandments, laws and rules of God and of our faith community the way it is explained in today’s first reading (Sir 15: 15-20)?

               The reading says that commandments are for our salvation, not oppression.

               Following the Lord’s commandments lead to life, to goodness, to joy, to peace of mind.

               God is present in the life of those who honor his laws.

This is perhaps what happens to Filipinos when they move abroad. They realize that people there honor the laws because they understand these are for their good, and keeping the laws does not only benefit them but also others.

When I was with a friend in the USA, and we were on the road, an ambulance drove by. My friend, like all the other drivers, veered to the side to make way for the ambulance.

When I asked him why he quickly responded the way he did, he said: It could have been any member of my family who is inside that ambulance. I just know that by giving way to it, I am saving another person’s life.

Now, think of how we even block ambulances in the streets of Manila or try racing with them to take advantage of their privileged fast lane!

We may also remember how after the Taal volcanic eruption, some stores hoarded the essential face mask for safety against dusk and sulphur, and some even doubled the prices in order to make bigger profits!

People were already suffering and all others could think of was how to profit from their misery!

In Japan when a tragedy struck, stores lowered the prices of the commodities just so that affected people can afford them and as a sign of solidarity with those in pain! People over there are more Christ-like though they are not even Christians!

The reading calls us to consider laws or commandments not as outside factors, external impositions, or heavy burdens but as part of our lives, coming from our hearts, and vital to our relationship with God and with each other.

This is how Orthodox Christians understand church laws – as part of their spirituality, as expressions of their love for God.

All of us struggle with hardness of heart, an inclination to sin, and a difficulty with commandments. Because of this we often fall into sin and rupture our connection with the Lord and our neighbor.

What if we start looking at responding and obeying the Lord’s commandments as our offering to the Father who wants to save us? As our grateful gift to Jesus who died for us? As a participation in the light and love of the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts?

(pls share with a friend… God bless!)