Monday, January 25, 2021

The Answer

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 

Acts 9:4




Today is the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle. Paul’s conversion story is fascinating. Paul was a fierce Jew, a Roman citizen and a Pharisee. Before he knew Christ, he persecuted Christians, and was looking on while Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was being stoned. 


But God had a plan for him, a purpose for this man who burned with hatred for Christians that he was willing to seek them out and bring them back to Jerusalem and have them persecuted. On his way to Damascus, a great light from heaven shone around him like a spotlight, and he fell to the ground. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”


“Who are you, sir?” He asked, and the answer came, “I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.” After that, Paul was given his marching orders to go to Damascus and “there you will be told about everything appointed for you to do.” 


Perhaps we may think why isn’t there a dramatic voice from heaven calling to me, a miracle that would help me strengthen my faith? As a Pharisee, Paul knew the Mosaic Laws, the Torah, the Prophets, the rites and services at the Temple. He studied all that and was a zealous Pharisee. When Jesus called him, He knew Paul would be just as zealous about Him and the Gospel. 


Today, we have the benefit of the whole of the Good News. Just like in school, we go step by step, we need to learn the foundations before we graduate to deeper knowledge. If we study the Bible, reading about the life of Jesus, the letters of Paul and the other books of the Bible, God will meet us there. He will answer our questions. 


Do we have a deep conviction that we are so important to God, even when we sin against Him? The answer is in the Bible. Do we know our purpose? It’s all in the Bible. There is so much to absorb and digest in that great collection of books! We will never be able to finish reading and rereading God’s love letters, His instructions to us. If we start there, I am sure God will give us miracles and wonders! Our conversion story is still ongoing! 


Sunday, January 24, 2021

How to Fish for People


“Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.” Mark 1:17




I am so used to hearing the phrase “fishers of men”, that I just take this verse for granted but in the NIV and New Living Translation, this verse sounds funny. “Come be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!” I am sure it sounded even funnier to the two brothers, Simon and Andrew, that Jesus issued the invitation to. They were after all, real commercial fishermen, rough and ready, no-nonsense men. What did they think? One would have surmised they would scoff and say, “What in the world are you talking about?” But they immediately left their boat and their nets to follow Jesus. 


A little farther the three men caught up with two other brothers, James and John, who were mending their nets in a boat with their father Zebedee. Jesus called out to them too and they immediately followed him, leaving their boat and their father behind. 


How about us? We may be a rough and ready no-nonsense person, or a “kikay” stylishly feminine woman, or an introvert who prefers his or her own company. Whatever we are, Jesus issues the same invitation. Do we step out of our boats, our comfort zone, and take one step at a time to follow Him? I believe that if we do, we will have the adventure of a lifetime! Jesus is that kind of a leader! If our hearts are open to receive His teaching we will never know where He will lead us. His plans for us are bigger and better than any we can concoct for ourselves! 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Beyond the Veil

“A tabernacle was constructed, the outer one, in which were the lampstand, the table, and the bread of offering; this is called the Holy Place. Behind the second veil was the tabernacle called the Holy of Holies.” Hebrews 9:2-3




When we read the instructions of God about the tabernacle and its furnishings in Exodus 25 and 37, we see how specific God was about this Holy Place. The amazing thing is it all foreshadows and symbolizes Jesus and what He did for us. Back then there were 3 veils that separated God from men. Only priests could enter the Holy Place where the lampstand, the table of showbread and the altar of incense was placed. Only the High Priest could enter once a year into the last veil where the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy seat was hidden.


The bronze of the whole courtyard symbolized sin, and the gold inside the tabernacle symbolized God and His separateness from us. The lampstand clearly was an early representation of Jesus, light of the world. The light on this lamp could not be permanently lit, but we have the light of the Word which will never die. The table of showbread was specified to be made of acacia overlaid with gold, which symbolized that Jesus was both God and man. The bread on the table, which was also called Bread of the Presence, symbolized God's presence among us. God with us! The altar of incense is Jesus' interceding for us continuously. Blood was applied to this altar on the Day of Atonement! How obvious could God be about His plans for us?


There is so much richness in all God does. Even in the little things then, and the little things now. We really need to open our eyes, to read His Word, and take advantage of the many gifts He wants to give us in His Word and in His presence in our life!


Friday, January 22, 2021

Don’t Give Up!

“I will put my laws in their minds and I will write them upon their hearts. I will be their God and they shall be my people.” Hebrews 8:10




St. Paul quoted from the 31st chapter of Jeremiah, where God spoke to Israel, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” The love described here is God’s love for every believer. “You must go back beyond your birth, beyond Calvary and Bethlehem, beyond the fall of man and the Garden of Eden, and as you stand looking out into the immensity of eternity, dare to believe that you were loved and chosen in Christ, the object of God’s most tender solicitude and pity.” (F.B. Meyer)


Perhaps we may say, as souls have asked throughout the ages, “If God loves me so much, why am I going through all this hardship and suffering? Why am I experiencing so much pain?” We may have heard perhaps of the story of the little boy and the cocoon he found and brought home with him. As he watched for hours, the butterfly struggled to get out of the cocoon, and then become still, then move again, and the boy decided to help. He took a pair of sharp scissors to snip carefully at the opening. The butterfly finally broke free but it could not fly. It’s wings were weak and shriveled and its body was swollen. The boy waited and waited in the hopes the wings would get stronger but it never did. When he asked his teacher, he learned that the butterfly was supposed to struggle as it emerged from the cocoon. Through the straining, the fluid from his swollen body would be pushed into its wings and the butterfly would be able to fly. 


Just like the butterfly, our struggles help build our spiritual wings. It makes us stronger. Robert Tew once wrote, “The struggle you’re in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow. Don’t give up.” 






Thursday, January 21, 2021

Found the Treasure

“To do your will, O my God, is my delight, ​and your law is within my heart!” Psalm 40:8



Aleteia is an online Catholic news and information website and I find many inspiring stories there. In their Spanish edition they published an amazing article last December about a young, beautiful, and terribly intelligent woman named Montserrat Medina Martinez. Montse, as she is called, was very successful in her field. After a doctoral fellowship in Computational Mathematics in Stanford, she founded Jetlore, a digital marketing company. Through data analysis, Jetlore creates personalized content for companies like eBay, PayPal, Uniqlo, etc. It raised $10.6 million in financing, and PayPal got interested in it and bought it. As an expert in artificial intelligence, and for her success in business, Montse has won several prestigious awards.

But one day, she changed her resume in LinkedIn to a personal testimony which reads “Servant of God”. She also wrote a long letter to her partners in Deloitte:

“It is with great regret that I have to say goodbye to Deloitte. I have decided to drop everything and respond to what I believe is a call from God to follow him more closely...The only thing I know for sure is that I have found “the treasure” and, as the Gospel says, I want to sell everything I have in this world to buy it (cf. Mt 13: 44-46). I feel that, by supporting this call, my life acquires a meaning full of light, which makes me feel blissful and happy. "

“Thus, as a self-proclaimed "good Catholic" for my physical attendance at the Sunday Eucharist, but proud of the glory, power and money that I was obtaining, my soul was building a privileged place in the abyss of nonsense of a life locked in selfishness. I cannot find words to describe the deplorable state in which my soul found itself while I deceived myself, convinced that it pleased God. After all, I thought I must be doing something right: I was pushing myself and I saw the reward....

“I have lived 12 years "succeeding" according to the parameters of the world: I have degrees from the prestigious Stanford University, I have founded a startup in Silicon Valley that has acquired a Fortune 100 and at only 34 years I became a partner at Deloitte. I said to the Lord: Look how well I have used your talents. But feeling a deep knowledge of the dirt in my soul, I realized my misunderstanding regarding the desired "perfection" that I was looking for in the things of the world, and the closer I got to it, the further I got away from the true one: the perfection of the soul that consists in doing the will of God, true fullness for which we have been created....

“That is why I have made the most important and at the same time the simplest decision of my life. I have decided, without any regrets, to stop investing in my earthly future and start investing in my future for eternal life...”

Monste now lives a life of a contemplative consecrated nun in an Augustinian monastery. 


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Hope

“Stretch out your hand." Mark 3:5



When Jesus visited a synagogue on a Sabbath, there was a man with a withered hand. Jesus healed him with no hesitation even if He knew He was being judged badly for healing on a Sabbath. 

All of us have a withered something we can stretch out to the Lord. It can be a talent we haven't used, a dream we've allowed to die, our health, a relationship destroyed by unforgiveness...

The good news is Jesus is asking us to stretch it out to Him, for healing, restoration, to make it whole again. We shouldn't lose hope. There's always hope. God never abandons us, although it may feel like He does sometimes. There is an ancient adage, “Homo viator, spe erectus,”, Latin for “Man is a wayfarer, (supported) upright by hope”.  In German, when a woman is pregnant, one says that she is “der Hoffnung”, she is “in hope”. 

What do we need to stretch out to God today? Whatever it is, we should know that our God walks with us. He has a plan. He always has a plan. In Romans 8:28: St. Paul tells us, “All things work together FOR GOOD to those that love God.” Or “In ALL THINGS God works together with those who love Him to bring about what is GOOD.” We just need to trust Him with all our mind, heart, and strength. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Like a Pelican

“...we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to hold fast to the hope that lies before us. This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil, where Jesus has entered on our behalf as forerunner...”Hebrews 6:18-19




Ever since the pandemic lockdown, which coincided with my recuperation from my surgery, I have taken to “traveling” vicariously through YouTube. I have gone around the Holy Land which was a trip we planned for last year. Yesterday, I watched a tour of the St. John Cantius Church in Chicago. It was voted the most beautiful church in the US in 2016. It’s unique baroque interior has remained intact for more than a century and what I loved hearing about from the priest, Father Joshua Caswell, were the many treasures and relics. There’s a a nineteenth-century copy of the icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa adorned with jeweled crowns and Versace necklaces personally blessed by Pope John Paul II. There are a myriad of symbols embedded on the floor, windows, walls, etc. 


The most fascinating tidbit I learned was about the symbol of the pelican above the tabernacle. Early Christians and Christians in the Middle Ages used the pelican as a symbol for Christ, for His love and the sacrifice He made on the cross. Legend has it that in times of famine, the mother pelican would wound its own breast to feed its young with her blood. Just like the pelican who died so her chicks would live, Jesus shed His own blood that we might have life, and He continues to feed us through the Eucharist. Because of Jesus, we can hold fast to hope, and the light that is beyond the veil. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

New Wineskins

“No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak. If he does, its fullness pulls away, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins.” Mark 2:21-22




I believe God's Word is always new, ever fresh, eternally alive and exciting. However it does not always appear that way, does it? That is because it is put into OLD WINESKINS! I believe that we all need to find fresh new ways of understanding, listening, obeying, teaching, loving. We can't do the same old, same old. When I went to Europe in 2009, I noticed the magnificent churches and cathedrals were filled with old people. How do we reach the younger generation?


How do we, as Jesus asked us to do, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch?" (Luke 5:4) Yesterday, our community celebrated our annual Day of Dedication, where like in Jesus’ time, new babies are presented to the community. We have done this every year since 1984, for 37 years now! What a milestone! My niece’s baby was presented, and he is a fourth generation child born into our community, Ligaya ng Panginoon (Joy of the Lord). His grandparents on both sides were part of our community. We have to share our wine for our children and our children’s children and have to make sure we have fresh wineskins. 


Yesterday, our family watched Jeff Cavins’s Great Bible Adventure, and my son immediately asked, “When was this made?” because the video looked old, and the graphics left much to be desired. He also asked me if we could make the video run twice faster which is how he usually watches! This showed me what a different world we live in. 


These days, what are our children into? I use Viber, but our children have abandoned that in favor of Telegram. They don’t like Facebook, and prefer Instagram. Lots of kids use Tiktok and I have yet to open that. In 2020, there were over 3.6 billion people using different social media apps worldwide. This is projected to increase  to almost 4.41 billion in 2025. Yes, people of today have a new way of interacting. We don’t need the handshake anymore or face to face meetings, especially with the worldwide pandemic! But that means, there are no borders anymore, and there are myriads of ways to reach out! It is exciting to see, experience and use these new frontiers! We all should be winemakers, filled with the Spirit of God, excited about what God wants us to do and HOW He wants us do it!



Sunday, January 17, 2021

Like a Little Child

“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.” 
Matthew 18:3-5



If I was one of Jesus' followers, I would never have been able to predict what He would say or answer. One day the disciples asked Him, "Who is of greatest importance in the kingdom of God?" I don't think I would ever have guessed that "a little child" would be His answer. But He's consistent. "Whoever makes himself lowly, becoming like this child, is of greatest importance in that heavenly realm." The lowly, the humble, the docile, the peaceful, the submissive, the obedient- these are all words that describe the God who was so humble He was willing to enter humanity as a little, defenseless child in a poor, nondescript family. 

But Jesus did not remain a lamb for long. There was a lion in Him, just as there is a lion in all of us. God's heart is fierce, and full of adventure. You can see that part of Him in the raging storm and majestic mountains. I think one of the reasons Jesus tells us not to despise the little ones, and that includes the poor, the downtrodden, those who have no voice, is He sees their potential. He sees what they can become. Each child, each man or woman has dignity as God's child. Each one is as important to Him as a CEO in a Fortune 500 company, as a brain surgeon, as the King or President of a mighty nation. God puts a seed of greatness in each one of us. He breathed His mighty Spirit into each one of us! Anything is possible for one who believes! 

My sister and brother-in-law have two children living with them now, during this pandemic. They are the 6 year old son and 8 year old daughter of the caregiver of my brother-in-law’s mom. My sister and brother-in-law are teaching them their lessons from the modules their teachers send via email. Grant, the 6 year old boy wants to become a priest and/or a farmer. Both of the children are very talkative and ask a slew of questions if you don’t stop them. They are enthusiastic about catching snails, taking care of plants, flying paper airplanes and a host of other things. I like to think of what they can become one day.

Lord, may we be like little children. Excited for each new day, and all the opportunities in it to love, and to experience this awesome world we live in. Teach us to encourage others to see their worth and dignity as Your children. Help us to see them as You do! 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Mustard Seed Faith

“They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him.” Mark 2:3-4



I like putting myself in a Bible story and gleaning some truth by being a part of what is happening. In the story of the paralyzed man being carried by his friends to Jesus, I have imagined myself to be the paralytic in need of Jesus. Indeed, we are all paralyzed in some way, by our circumstances, by our sins, by our past, by our health, sometimes even by the way we think.

But today I am putting myself in the place of one of the paralytic's friends. They don't give up. Even if the crowd around Jesus doesn't make a way for them to pass through the door, they make their own way. They went up through the roof. They burrowed through the tiles of the roof, and lowered their friend! Can you imagine the hardship they went through? Not only the climbing up to the roof with a stretcher, but carrying their friend through the streets! It could not have been easy balancing the stretcher through cobblestones, and weaving their way through people and other carts and horses. We can see very clearly how much they cared, How much love and compassion they had for their friend. 

How many people have I carried through the streets, up to the roof, and through broken tiles for? Has my faith and love brought someone to the notice of Jesus, enough for Him to say, "I see your faith. I will heal your friend!" Sometimes we give up because of the "crowds", the busyness, the hopelessness. But if we want to see "incredible things", we should persevere and push through the crowds, and whatever obstacles are put in our way! And we should remember, that even if we put down the mat, we can always take it up again, and continue the journey. 

I see how I am blessed to be a part of a loving community of brothers and sisters who pray and bring each other to Jesus’ notice. How many times have I been witness to how we rally around someone in need of prayers, encouragement, financial assistance, and help of all kinds. A single woman got hit by a Jeep and got horribly mangled and we came together to “bring her on a stretcher” to Jesus. She is now a walking miracle, and it is good to see her indomitable spirit.

When my brother was in the hospital last December and his situation appeared hopeless, more than four people carried the mat. A horde of people, friends, and friends we have never met, resolutely brought him to Jesus’ notice, barging through obstacles. Thank You Lord for seeing our faith and giving us a Christmas miracle. 

In the past year, we have been part of prayer brigades, and 24 hour prayer vigils for those infected with COVID. Lord, there are so many in need of our prayers and our help. May I always make time to bring my friends, my neighbors, my hurting country, to Your notice. May You see our tiny, mustard seed faith, and answer our prayers.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Encourage Yourselves Daily

“Encourage yourselves daily while it is still ‘today’...” Hebrews 3:13




In another version of the Bible, it says to encourage one another daily. Encourage comes from an early 15th century French word, ‘encoragier’, which means to make strong, and to hearten. To hearten means to inspire with courage, hope or spirit. It may also mean to stimulate growth, to foster or to help. 


Ever since the pandemic, many have been interested in taking care of plants, and I know many ‘plantitas’. I do not have a green thumb but I know that talking to plants helps it to grow better. The researchers of the Royal Horticultural Society conducted a month long study which actually corroborates this. 


If plants respond well to encouragement, how much more will humans? We need to intentionally talk and behave in a way that gives people around us the stimuli to be better and to do better. Sometimes it is sad but true, we can be our own worst critic! We should not only be kind to others but to ourselves as well. We should not be the person who stunts another’s growth, or hinders our own growth because we are discouraging or unsupportive. 


Someone told me of a teacher in an exclusive school who was so disparaging of a young student’s artwork, that she actually crumpled it. The student became so disheartened he killed himself. Here we see the devastating power of words. But words also have a creative power. We all know the first verse in the book of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” We also know the verse from the first chapter of Genesis, about the creation of the world, “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” We can create light in our life and the life of others by our words. 


The theme chosen for the 2018 Holocaust Memorial Day was “The Power of Words”.  David Sterling who spoke at the event said, “Words can have a huge impact, whether for the good or bad....If we are to help build our shared and diverse society, we must ensure that words should never be tolerated to marginalise, inflict pain and hurt against anyone regardless of race, colour, religion, creed, nationality, sexual orientation, or disability.  We must learn from the past if we are to build a better future.”


More than ever today, we should choose our words to create light in a dark world, bring love Into miserable situations, and peace where there is turmoil and chaos. 


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Beautiful Souls

“Because He Himself was tested through what He suffered, He is able to help those who are being tested.” Hebrews 2:18




I remember what my sister said a long time ago, that when one experiences hardship, one is able to be compassionate with others and help them. My brother has experienced much suffering in his life. That’s why he is able to feel deeply for others. I was able to talk to a young woman once, who told me that if not for my brother taking an interest in her, mentoring her, and teaching her to paint, she would have committed suicide. And she told me there were many he has been able to help. 


Sometimes we think, why is God allowing this terrible thing to happen to me? Is it just to break us? God’s ways are higher than ours, and although we may find it difficult to fathom, there is always a reason for it, a plan that we do not see. He is the grand weaver, and He will perhaps one day reveal to us His intricate and magnificent design. 


I have long been fascinated by the Japanese art of kintsukuroi, which means golden repair, being a person who likes to reuse and recycle everything from toilet paper rolls and blister packs. In Japan, instead of throwing away broken pieces of pottery, they put it back together and mend the fragments with lacquer mixed with gold. In their thinking, breakage and repair is part of the history of an object, and not something to hide or disguise in shame. As is often the case, the mended pottery turns out more beautiful, and potters have been accused of intentionally breaking pots in order to repair them with gold. 


Is that the case with our potter? Does God intentionally allow hardship in our life in order to break us and mend us, and as a result we become more beautiful to Him? Sometimes we are hard, self-centered, and unfeeling. God loves us too much to allow us to stay that way. He will bend us, break us, mold us, until we become the best version of ourselves. Canadian philosopher and entrepreneur, Matshona Dhliwayo wrote, “Beautiful souls are shaped by ugly experiences.” 







Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Open Window

“What have You to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are–the Holy One of God!” Mark 1:24




Evil spirits know who Jesus is, but one thing the enemy and all his minions want to do on earth is for us to think, “There is no such thing as the devil!” Many even want to discount the historicity of Jesus Christ and the Bible. We do not want to be accountable to anybody, least of all, God. Will we ignore all that Jesus said and did while on earth? 


It is hard to find concrete evidence about Jesus because He was an itinerant preacher who did not leave any monuments or even signs in stone. However there are many literary records aside from the gospels that mention Jesus. There’s Pliny the Younger, the Roman senator and historian Tacitus, the Roman historian Suetonius, the Jewish historian Josephus, who all mentioned the Christus and His followers. And we have the undeniable witness of the apostles, all of whom except for Judas and John, died a martyr’s death proclaiming the gospel in obedience to Jesus’ instructions. There are also more and more archeological discoveries confirming scripture. For example, some people claimed Pontius Pilate did not exist, so why is he mentioned in the Nicene Creed we recite: “He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried.”? 


In 1961, an archeologist found a block of limestone in Caesarea Maritima with an authentic 1st century Roman inscription mentioning Pontius Pilate’s name. The Pilate stone is displayed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. There are many such artifacts that confirm the truth and reliability of scripture. Uncovering these concrete evidence in the holy land is like the fifth gospel in some way. 


One of my favorite finds is located in Corinth where St. Paul lived and preached for eighteen months. In 1929, an archeologist uncovered a marble slab embedded on the street, dated at the time St. Paul was living there. The inscription is deeply etched into the stone, and what it says is that he, Erastus, was city treasurer and he was happy to serve, and that is why he paid for the walkway with his own money. St. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “...Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. ERASTUS, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you.” (Romans 16:23, ESV) Apparently, Erastus, the city treasurer, was evangelized by Paul, and was a new believer! He becomes more real to us because of that stone he left in Corinth! 


How wonderful to have this open window to see a glimpse of the times of Saint Paul and Jesus and even the characters that peopled the Old Testament! We can easily research about how archeology brings the Bible alive, and visit museums virtually, to see stones with King David’s name on it, or read about Macphellah where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Rachel, Leah and Rebecca are buried. Then we can say with certainty, I know who you are, Jesus, You are the God of history! The Messiah who was prophesied! The King who will come again! 












Monday, January 11, 2021

Believe

“This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Mark 1:15




When the priest puts ashes in the shape of a cross on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday, he intones, “Repent and believe in the Gospel”. In this we follow the example of the Ninevites who did penance in sackcloth and ashes when they disobeyed God and wanted to be forgiven. We are also reminded that man is dust, and to dust we shall return. 


Life is hard. Showing up day after day is hard. Even praying can be hard sometimes. I confess that writing this every morning at 5 am or earlier is a way of preaching to myself. I need to show up, to be intentional about it before God every morning, or I won’t show up at all. I have notebooks and notebooks filled with my writings, outpourings of my heart to a God who also shows up for me whenever I come before Him. It’s my way of proving to God that I believe in Him, I believe in His words, His promises, His instructions. I believe He is worth it. 


“This is the time of fulfillment.” The Greek word used for time in this verse is “kairos” which indicates a period predetermined by God. Our whole life is predetermined by God. We were born for such a time as this, as it says in Esther 4:14. What is it that God has placed us to do here? What doors has He placed in our path to open? Are there people we need to influence and encourage? Are there opportunities He wants us to see, and plans He wants us to make? 


Sunday, January 10, 2021

Higher

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9





There was a family on a boat with other refugees traveling from Turkey to Athens. On the way, their 7 year old daughter fell into the water. They frantically looked for her and could not see her anywhere. Suddenly she appeared, dry and calm at the front of the boat, claiming, “A man who walked on the water took me and brought me to the other side of the boat.” The family did not believe her, but upon arriving on Lesbos, they met a Christian.  He asked if they would like to know about a God who walked on water. They started crying, and when he showed them the passage in the Bible about Jesus walking on the water, the more they cried. 


When we ourselves realize how much God loves us, and how much He did for us by sending His Son to die on the cross, we will cry too. We cannot fathom why the God of the universe would care about silly, unfaithful humans, but He does! He is the God of second and third chances! Truly His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are unfathomable. 


Take this worldwide pandemic which has affected and taken so many lives, businesses, jobs, organizations and industries. So many fatalities! It can seem hopeless and devastating, but we can trust that God sees things in an entirely different way. 


Sometimes when something goes wrong with a gadget, we push a button and close it down. Maybe the whole world world needed a reset or a reboot! We trust in You Lord! Help us to see the bigger picture like You do. Guide us to think with Your mind and heart. Help us to see that we do not belong in this world and there is always something better waiting for us!





 

Saturday, January 09, 2021

He Must Increase

He must increase; I must decrease.” John 3:30




This is from an old copy of the The Anawim Way, the meditation book I read every morning: “The liturgical season of Christmas is coming to a close. Tomorrow is the last day of the Christmas season as we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. The Church in her wisdom has given us three weeks beginning on December 24 to focus on the light of Christ, who has come into the world on Christmas. We are COUNTER CULTURAL in that regard, because for the secular world, Christmas season ended on December 26. The Church follows a different calendar based on the life, death and resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. It is a blessing to be given time to ponder the mysteries of this season without being rushed. Each liturgical season offers us a unique grace that would be missed if we were to hurry through it and not take the time to pray and ponder the liturgy. The Christmas season has the grace of focusing on the Light that Christ brings into the darkness of the world and into our own hearts.” 


Yes, counter cultural! During the busy and hectic Christmas season, the Church invites us to slow down and ponder He who must increase in our lives. His influence on us must increase. Our dependence on Him must increase. Indeed, we should realize that we should strive (the Greek agonizai which means to agonize or take pains with) to be more and more like Him. Looking at myself, my idiosyncrasies and weaknesses, I think it is impossible. But when I look to Jesus, I know He makes the impossible possible. 

Friday, January 08, 2021

Shrek the Sheep

“Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do will it.  Be made clean.” Luke 5:12-13



Life can be burdensome. We carry a load on our back and it can break us or make us stronger. We cannot really carry it alone or it will make us bitter, desperate, rebellious and even hardened to the point of brittleness. Think of those who survived the Holocaust, who went through wars, and great famines, and now this pandemic. Where are we to go to look for the bright light we long for? 

When I think of burdens I remember Shrek the sheep. He became famous in 2004 for his fleece which was abnormally heavy! Merinos are normally shorn every year but Shrek was an expert in hiding in caves and avoided being caught for six long years! He belonged to the Bendigo sheep station near Tarras, New Zealand, and when he was finally found, his shearing was broadcast on national television. An average merino would just carry 4.5 kg, with an exceptional weight of up to 15 kg. Shrek’s fleece weighed 27 kg, enough for 20 large men’s suits! What a heavy burden, simply because Shrek kept hiding from his shepherd for six long years! He was a runaway rebel like many of us, preferring to carry our burdens by ourselves. 

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light,” Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30. If we surrender, stop hiding, Jesus promises He will give us rest. All we need to do is to learn from Him, to read and understand and take His words to heart. He came to heal us. He gave His life so we can have life! 

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Princess

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me..." Luke 4:18




When we were baptized into God's family, and in the Holy Spirit, we were anointed with oil, and made one with Christ. We can say as He did in the temple, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore He has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and release to prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord."


Have we taken this mission given to us seriously? Just like the apostles, we too are sent. The word apostle is from the Classical Greek word 'apóstolos' meaning 'one who is sent away'. We all share in Christ's threefold mission as priest, prophet and king.


As prophet, we are supposed to reveal God and speak to others about Him. We are His witnesses. As priest, we can intercede for others! We are mediators, a bridge between God and man.


As King, or princess, as I prefer, we are given authority over a territory. Jesus came to announce the Kingdom of God, so that God can reign in our hearts. Just as Jesus exercised His Kingship by serving, we too should have servant hearts. Are we able to allow God’s love to shine through us by our actions the same way Jesus showed His willingness to serve by washing the feet of His disciples? Are we generous with our blessings so that the poor would not only receive glad tidings from us but more concrete expressions of love? 


Lord, as we come to the end of the Christmas season, may we find renewed strength and power to serve You and remember that we share in Your threefold mission. Amen!

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

God is Love

“God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” 1 John 4:16



Oh to bask in the Lord's love forever and ever. To remain in His love (NIV), abide in His love (NASB), continue in His friendship (Aramaic Bible in Plain English), must be a joy and a delight. 

I think of all my dear friends in distress today. One whose father died of COVID far away from him, in another country. One whose son was in a terrible accident and damaged his neck, partially paralyzing him. One who husband has been in a coma for years. And so many of my friends have cancer. My brother has cancer. If only we can all learn to live, to abide, to continue in our Father’s love as He advises us to. Perhaps then we can fully trust, fully leave everything in His hands. Perhaps then we can be like Saint Theresa of Avila and let nothing disturb us. "Nada te turbe," she prayed, "God alone suffices." 
 
Jesus says we have to keep His commandments to remain in His love. "All this I tell you that my joy may be yours and your joy may be complete." (John 15:11) Isn't it terribly difficult, Lord, to keep Your commandments? we ask. And this is what Jesus has to say, "This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you." (John 15:12) All of God's commandments boil down to, can be distilled to its very essence: love. "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." (1 John 4:8). 

Lord, how difficult is it to love like You? So infinitely impossible. For You gave Your very life and blood for each one of us, even for those who hate, ridicule and despise You. But like Mother Teresa said we can start with just one. One hungry child to feed. One hug, one visit, one letter, one prayer, one gift, one hour.... Lord, let me see with Your eyes, and love with Your heart. It is not impossible when I journey one step at a time with You! 


Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Multiply

“Give them some food yourselves.” Mark 6:37




What did the disciples think when faced with a huge crowd and Jesus suggested they give them food? “We only have five loaves and two fish. Will we go and buy food for all these people? Where will we find the money?” This is how we think as well when faced with a problem where we do not have enough resources. 


When the disciples gave the 5 loaves and 2 fishes to Jesus, Jesus looked up to heaven and said a blessing over it. The huge crowd ate and were satisfied. There were even twelve baskets of leftovers! 


This is a beautiful story because there is a promise we can claim. Whatever we have in our hand, if we offer it to Jesus first, He blesses it. He can do the impossible with it. We all have time and it is seldom enough. When I give time to God first thing in the morning, I find I am able to do much more in a day, accomplish more than if I didn't. The same is true with money and other resources. The same is true with our gifts and talents. I get surprised with how God makes it all multiply, bloom and grow! 


Thank You, Lord, for blessing whatever we have in our hands that we bring to You!