Monday, November 24, 2014

The Best Gift

 Jesus said, "I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest, for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood." Luke 21:3-4
Such a difficult passage to read. Does God want us to give ALL our money? How about saving for our retirement, taking care of our children's education, maintaining our house, our cars, food, clothing, Christmas gifts, travel...the list goes on and on. And then I think, as long as I offer it all to the Lord. I am just His steward, then I can "keep" everything. I just need to give the 10% tithes and a little more for alms, then I'll be OK. Is that all right Lord? How can I help others if I am in want myself?

I really, really want Your answer Lord!

 "My dear, life is about giving. An offering of yourself to Me and to others. Just as I did for you, so must you do to others. Give not only of your wealth, but your time, your talents, your resources, all you have. Share it. And I will multiply whatever you offer to Me. Such is My Kingdom. Unless the seed falls to the ground and dies, it cannot be used. It cannot multiply, grow, bloom. Trust. That is the key. It is what is needed. Entrust your future to me. Entrust your life to me. Test me."

 "Lord, when did we see you and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?" Matthew 25:37
"Who gives himself with alms feeds three- himself, his hungry neighbor and Me." (Lowell)
St. Martin of Tours was an 18 year old legionary when he met a beggar clad in rags at the city gate of Amiens. He decided to cut his great woolen cloak into two, and gave the half to the beggar. That night he dreamt that it was Christ wearing half of his cloak. St. Francis is famous for exchanging his rich clothes with beggars. And also kissing lepers who he used to find revolting. Once when he did kiss a leper's hands and face, he looked around after mounting his horse, and could not find the leper anywhere!
There are many 'kingdoms' here on earth. Politicians try to be kings. Some actors live their lives as if they are untouchable. Some people act as if they will live forever with no mind for tomorrow. But in the Kingdom where God is Master, we will be judged not according to what we have accumulated, how much power or popularity or influence we have, but how much we loved.

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me." Matthew 25:35
Perhaps the best gift we can give the birthday celebrant this Christmas is to find him in jail, in the hospital, orphanage, old age homes, in the hovels under the bridges of the city. Let us not forget the birthday celebrant while we are giving gifts, and having parties and getting together for the season!

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Paint Party: My Inheritance Forever!

A friend commissioned me to do a 
Filipino Nativity, and this is what I came up with.
I hope she likes it!!

 "Let the high praises of God be in their throats." Psalm 149:9
I have to confess that I don't praise God enough. I don't take the time to stand up and sing during my prayer time in the morning. I usually do that during prayer meetings, with brothers and sisters singing at a crescendo with the music ministry.
What I fail to realize every day is that if I do praise God I do it in unison with the largest and the best choir in the world (and out of the world!) We sing with the angels, and archangels, the saints, the hosts and powers of heaven. Indeed if we do not praise God, we do not really know Him, for to know God is to know He is worthy of praise, of immeasurable praise!

A preacher I was listening to on Youtube said that praises to God was like a huge, eternal Mexican wave (the rhythm achieved in a packed stadium when successive groups of spectators briefly stand, yell, and raise their arms). We need not initiate it, we just need to choose whether to join in. I like that, at any time anywhere that I choose to praise God, I would be part of this wonderful cloud of praise going up to heaven. One with Sandi Patti, Don Moen, Suzy Yaraei, Kim Walker, Nicole Nordeman, etc. The list goes on.... Isn't that exciting?

 "Your decrees are my inheritance forever, for they are the joy of my heart." Psalm 119:111
One thing I like doing is reading different versions of a bible verse to understand it more. For this verse, I prayed, "Thank you for your decrees, your testimonies, your unchanging word, your laws, your written instructions, your covenant laws, your rules, your written instructions, your book on living. This is my inheritance, my heritage, my possession, my treasure and gift forever. It is truly the joy and delight and exultation of my heart."

 When I think about how some people take the wrong path, make the wrong choices, compromise even if they say they want to obey God, I am so grateful for my parents who taught me how to pray, to obey the Lord, and read the Bible. If we want blessing for ourselves, for our children and children's children, it's not enough to attend mass and listen to the priest's homilies, or attend service and listen to preaching. We have to plant the seed of the Word of God in our heart ourselves.
Isaiah 40:8 says, "The grass withers and the flowers fade but the Word of our God stands forever."

"He is not God of the dead but of the living, for to Him all are alive." Luke 20:38

Do we really realize that 100% of us, with no exception are going to die? This body which we take so much care of, is decaying, even as we breathe.

St. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:8, "For bodily exercise and discipline is of some value, but Godliness and spiritual training is profitable, has value for all things in every way, for it holds promise for the present but also for the life to come."

I can't help comparing the time we spend for our bodies (dressing up, putting on make-up, eating, buying clothes and shoes, etc.) with the time we spend tending our spirits.Our body is not who we are. When we take care of our body, we are taking care of a temporary thing, a decaying thing. But when we take care of our spirits, we take care of the eternal.

 Jesus, as He was on the cross, called out, "Father, into Your hands, I commit my Spirit." To commit means to entrust for safekeeping. Jesus didn't say, "I commit my body", perhaps because He knew He would get a brand new one. It was so easy for His Father to recreate His mangled and bloody body, just as He will for us one day.

Do we spend more time taking care of our physical bodies than we do for our true selves, our spirits? Let's take stock of our priorities!!!

 Oreo at the office!
He likes to approve my sister Peggy's designs as she works!

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

WOYWW: Time, Talent & Treasure

Here's my desk this morning.
I've got a bottle full of roses from a party I attended
with my husband last Monday.
I do so love fresh flowers, don't you?

"To everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, 
even what he has will be taken away." Luke 19:26

Before sleeping last night I prayed that the gospel today would give me guidance about what to do about some employees who have been doing things they shouldn't. Of course we would want to balance compassion with the discipline and consequences that are needed.

Today's parable in the 19th chapter of Luke is about a master who left a talent each to his 10 servants while he went off to claim a crown. A talent is no small sum of money. Each talent was about 20 years wages of an ordinary person. So for someone on minimum wage, that would have been more than two million eight hundred pesos. They were entrusted to not only take care of it but to make it grow. When he came back, one servant made the mistake of just keeping the huge amount of money in a handkerchief!

When one is given a job, we have to do our best and use our skills so that the company who hired us earns from our labor directly or indirectly. If we are a good employee, we will make sure our employer earns a lot from our efforts! The same is true with what God gives us. We don't own anything. What we have is God's investment in us. And one day there will be an accounting of what we have done with all that God entrusted to us-
our time, talent and treasure.

Sometimes in a business there is a dishonest employee. He steals money. Instead of the company earning from him, the company loses money :^((( In Jesus' story, the master reprimands one servant because he should have put the money in the bank instead of keeping it in a handkerchief, to earn interest. He takes the talent from him and gives it to the one who earned 10 times the talent! What would this demanding master have done if the servant absconded with the talent?

God rewards those who use their talents well. Those who are faithful with little will be entrusted with more. Those who neglect or squander what they have, or use it for evil and not good, will lose what they have. Perhaps it's time to take stock of our own talents and see if God is getting a good return on His investment in us.

 "Zaccheus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house," Luke 19:

I've read this story about Zacchaeus, the tax collector, so many times and each time I picture in my head a short, funny man, a cartoon like character, with no dignity.

But the other side of Zaccheus, I never thought about. After all, he was a real person just like Jesus is real, not a cartoon character. Zacchaeus was probably a smart man, intelligent, to get to be the CHIEF tax collector. And because he was shunned and despised, he was probably lonely. And perhaps he had dignity of another kind. He was very rich, extremely wealthy, and his clothes would have been of the finest cloth and tailoring. 

It must have taken a lot for him to climb a tree to see Jesus. He had to shed his pride. He became like a child again. In Matthew 18:3, Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will NEVER enter the Kingdom of Heaven." 

Jesus saw Zacchaeus' heart. The eagerness, the longing to be accepted by Jesus, the willingness to give up the life he had. And so Jesus, looking up said, "I'm going to stay at your house today!" And Zacchaeus was like a little kid, unmindful of what he must have looked like, scrambling down the tree, eagerly, joyfully.

Jesus always sees that part of us, no matter how small, that longs to please Him. That part of our heart that desires to be united with the One who loves us best. And when He sees that, He invites us, "Today I want to stay at your house!" It doesn't matter what we've done before. If we clamber down from our indifference, our pride, our selfishness, in humility and determination, eagerly, joyfully, Jesus will come to stay in our heart!


Monday, November 17, 2014

Beauty is Fleeting

 "What do you want me to do for you?" Luke 18:41
The Gospel reading today in the 18th chapter of Luke is about a blind man named Bartimaeus. He was begging by the road when he heard a crowd pass by. "What's happening?" he asked. When someone told him it was Jesus of Nazareth, he shouted, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
The people in the crowd shushed him, reproved him, rebuked him, and told him sternly to be quiet. Perhaps if it was us, we would have been intimidatedand shut up. After all, we would have spent a lifetime living in the shadows, just waiting for someone to help. Perhaps we would have been afraid, unwilling to risk more censure. There were probably many blind and sick people who were shushed by the crowd as Jesus passed. But Bartimaeus is mentioned not only in Luke, but also in Mark where he is named, and Matthew, because he did not give up. In the Amplified Bible, the translation reads that Bartimaeus screamed and shrieked some more, "Jesus, have mercy on me!!!!"

 This reminds me of the story of the widow and the corrupt judge in the same chapter of Luke. Because Bartimaeus was persistent, Jesus could not ignore him. Just as Jesus does not ignore our prayers when we come to Him in our need.
One very important lesson I learned from this story is that there will be many who will try to stop us from praying. It may be the distractions of the world. It may be ourselves. We stop praying because we don't want to be disappointed, we stop because we are angry God does not mind us right away and answer. It may even be brothers and sisters in the church crowd, shushing us because they just don't believe God will make miracles today! Lesson? Pray without ceasing and don't give up!

 "Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." Proverbs 30:30
Have you heard of the horrifying true story of the man who sued his wife because his daughter was "incredibly ugly"? First he sued her because he thought she had had an affair, but when the DNA tests showed that the daughter was his, he found out that her beautiful face was the result of a lot of plastic surgery! She had not told him, and so he was shocked when his daughter looked nothing like them!
Most women don't resort to a massive amount of plastic surgery to change their looks and bodies radically, but we do try our best to put our best face forward. It's easy to see how we look like because we have the mirror to tell us, but do we see the truth? The truth is that God thinks we are beautiful. In Psalm 139:14, David says, "I give you thanks because I am fearfully, wonderfully made."
The arch of our brows, the texture of our hair, the lift of our nose, the color of our skin... God took such care in forming all of these details to make us unique and beautiful in His eyes. God is an amazing artist and we are each His masterpiece! If we spend time with Him, we will be able to know how much He loves us and He can show us we are beautiful.

 I think the devil and the world connive to put lenses on our eyes so that we are more concerned with the outer us than the inner us. To God it is more important what we are on the inside. There is no mirror to show us. But it will be good to pay attention to how we look inside each day. Am I patient, kind, loving, encouraging, honest? Inner beauty is of so much more value to God than how we look outside.
I like this saying; "I can't wait till tomorrow because I get prettier every day!" Do we grow more beautiful inside every day? If we do, I guarantee that inside beauty will reflect outside in a way that is pleasing not only to God but others as well!

 "Always pray and not give up, do not turn coward, do not faint, do not lose heart." Luke 18:1
In Jesus' parable in Luke 18:1-7, there are two protagonists. One widow and one corrupt judge. Jesus used a widow in His story to emphasize her desperate situation. During His time, a widow had no influence, no social standing, no position in society. But she was able to get the judge to rule favorably because of her persistence. Jesus' sense of humor shows when He says the judge thought, "I care little for God or man but this widow is WEARING ME OUT. I am going to settle in her favor or she will end by doing me violence."
Jesus proceeds to give us the secret to the heart of God: "Will not God then do justice to His chosen who call out to Him day and night? Will He delay over them do you suppose? I tell You, He will give them swift justice."

Can you imagine how amazing that is? That we have the power to change the heart of God? I want to get into the habit of interceding right away when I hear of a need. Sometimes on Facebook, or on a blog or text message, someone asks for prayer. Wouldn't it be great if instead of just saying, "I will pray", we take the time to write our prayer?
Although we should act as if everything depends on us, much more should we pray as if everything depends on God, because it does!!! "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of." (Alfred Lord Tennyson)

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Paint Party Friday: See You in Heaven!

 "So it will be on the day the 
Son of Man is revealed." Luke 17:30
As the liturgical year comes to a close 
there will be more readings about the end times, 
tribulations, the signs, judgement, 
and about how we should be vigilant. 
How do we respond to Jesus' revelation 
of how it will be at the end? 
Just as in the days of Noah, unless we are close to God 
and listening to Him, we will just be 
going about our every day business. 
Do we think of this as just a fairy tale? 
Concocted like the stories of our yaya (nanny) 
when we were young to scare us into behaving? 
Or do we take it seriously? 
Knowing that all of us will die some day 
and there is some sort of reckoning and judgement to come.

We won't know for certain when we will leave this earth. 
I heard of this radio announcer who was 
talking about death on his time slot, 
and then that same day, he died in a motorcycle accident. 
And just yesterday, a good friend 
I used to see every day at mass, Ric de Leon, died. 
He was always telling me to pray for him 
because he was naughty and liked a good laugh. 
I will always remember him fondly. 
And I can't help thinking that he is having 
a wonderful time with my mom who passed away in February, 
and Judge Savellano who died almost at the same time. 
The Judge always greeted us, when we saw him 
at the Blessed Sacrament, "See you in heaven!"
One thing is clear- the good Lord did not intend 
that we live forever in this fleshly body 
that is decaying every single day. 
And my response to that is, "Wonderful!!!" 
I think that is why God allows the creaky knees, 
failing memory, cancer, wrinkles, the pain of separation, etc. 
It's a constant reminder that this is our temporary home.
And like the Judge, I'd like to say to each one, "See you in heaven!"

 "The Kingdom of God is within you." Luke 17:21. 
Another version reads, 
"The Kingdom of God is already in your midst."
Jesus compared the Kingdom of God 
to yeast and a tiny mustard seed. 
Why did Jesus compare it to such insignificant things? 
Perhaps because the Kingdom was initiated 
by an insignificant babe born in an unimportant stable 
in an inconsequential town. 
Perhaps because the Kingdom started with people 
of no power and influence who allowed 
a seed of faith to grow within them.
There are 2.2 billion Christians in the world, 
32% of the world's population (2012 study, couldn't find a more recent one). 
Isn't that amazing? 
That from a rag-taggle group of those few followers of Jesus, 
we have grown 2 billion strong?

If only each one of us unleashes the power of 
that insignificant seed of faith in our hearts, 
and allow the Spirit of God to change us and the world around us!
"Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. 
For indeed, that's all who ever have." 
Margaret Mead

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