Reading a book one lazy afternoon, I could hear the familiar voice of Arnel Pineda on the neighbor’s radio crooning with his heart “Don’t Stop Believing.” This amazingly powerful song immediately struck a chord inside me. After its release in 1981, it is still topping the charts more than 30 years after its debut. The song is one of the most listened to in iTunes and the most downloaded in the 20thcentury. It continues to inspire youth and adults alike to always have hope.
This song has also been the synthesis of Pineda’s life. His mother died when he was 13 leaving their family in debt. He was forced to stop schooling. For two years he spent out on the streets sleeping anywhere; earned money by collecting bottles and newspaper. Sometimes he did not have anything to eat. But he kept on surviving and working hard on his talent.
Born a singer-songwriter, his biggest break came in 2007 when he gained international stardom by being chosen as lead vocals of the American Rock Band “Journey.” He kept believing despite the odds on his side such as poverty, lack of connection or lack of pedigree. He did not make failure define his life. He just kept persisting.
Today’s Gospel Reading (Mt 16:13-20) narrates the dialogue between Jesus and his disciples leading to Peter’s confession of faith. They were journeying in the region of Caesarea Philippi when Peter, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, acknowledged and affirmed Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” It was a turning point for him to be given a mandate “to bind and to lose.” On this rock of faith the Church is born.
The Church is a community borne from our desperate need to form meaningful relationships. Each person is in search for love and companionship. At times we have become strangers to each other that we fear isolation and loneliness. We seek someone like Jesus to understand us despite who we are. Hence we need each other around the person of Jesus to teach us how to make our love real. It was for this purpose that he entered into dialogue with his companions in order to invite them to share in his mission.
Becoming Church today is a great challenge. For some, the Church has become irrelevant with leaders experiencing moral failure. It is tantamount to saying that God is now missing in the Church. There is a prevalent mistrust in authority that there are those who declare: “I have a personal relationship with God; why do I need the Church?” Moreover, the growing epidemic of loneliness is also infiltrating the Church that its members are not finding community in it. This is really most tragic!
In Scriptures, Christ gathered a community through the apostles. This community is in communion with him despite their failings. To know Jesus, then, we need the Church, because it is the Church that authoritatively and reliably preserves and proclaims the truth about who Jesus is. Pope Francis said: “The Church is not a community of perfect people, but disciples on a path who follow the Lord because they recognize themselves as sinners and in need of his forgiveness.”
One model of persistence in faith and prayer is St. Monica. Her son, Augustine was a source of her great pain. Despite his brilliance, he was a wayward son. He followed a path that led him away from Christ. Yet Monica loved him unconditionally offering constant prayers and tears for her son. Her anxiety and concern for him made St. Ambrose, the Bishop of Milan exclaim: “Go on your way, and God bless you, for it is not possible that the son of these tears should be lost.”
There are still many Monica’s today who are struggling and uncertain about the future of their loved ones. They are drifting through life experiencing isolation and discouragement. But I believe God sends us people along the way to give us hope and inspiration. Even the Church is a great sign of hope that the power of darkness can never defeat us. We just keep on believing with an unwavering optimism.
This article appears in Fr. Randy’s Column “Sharing the Word,” Faith Section of Cebu Daily News, August 27, 2017
Disclaimer: This section of the website is a personal creative writing of the author and does not necessarily reflect the official views, opinion, or policies of the Salesians of Don Bosco – Philippines South Province. For concerns on the content, style, and grammar of this piece, please contact us.