Thursday, April 09, 2020

Gratitude

“How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good He has done for me?” Psalm 116:12




An old man was charged a lot of money for the oxygen he used in the hospital. He started crying and the woman in the cashier’s counter asked him why he was crying, was it because he did not have money to pay the bill? “No, oh no,” the man answered, “I have been breathing oxygen my entire life and God has not asked me to pay for anything!” 


Indeed we cannot repay God’s goodness to us. Our bodies with fingers that work, feet that walk, hearts that pump, are all miracles. How much would we be willing to pay just to have eyes to see? An opposable thumb? Healthy lungs? Even the sensitivity to feel physical pain is a gift! Feeling physical pain is vital for survival, and it is common for people with congenital analgesia to die in childhood due to injuries or illnesses going unnoticed. So many blessings we take for granted! 


So however we are feeling right now, out of sorts, anxious, confused, uncertain, it is always the right time to praise the Lord. God is always worthy of our praise whether we feel like praising Him or not. Praising God makes us strong and is an essential weapon in our fight against the invisible enemies out to destroy us. 



Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Speak to the Weary

“The Lord has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.” Isaiah 50:4




I think this verse refers to Isaiah the prophet, but it also points to Jesus. And as we are supposed to be imitators of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1), we should also strive to speak and write to the weary and discouraged, words that will rouse, encourage, and strengthen them. Many people are anxious at this time, confused and disheartened. We should think of ways to be Jesus to them. 


The thing is if we use our own words in our own strength, sometimes it just isn’t enough. Cordie was a member of the James Island Fire Department when they were called to put out a house fire. After he and the other firemen were able to extinguish the fire in the den, they started salvaging what they could, and cleaning up the burned materials. Cordie noticed that all the keys of the piano got melted into one lump from the intense heat. 


They continued to clean up until Cordie found a large book which turned out to be the family Bible. He brought it to the lady of the house. It was the only thing that survived intact. All the pages were undamaged! This experience impressed Cordie so much and taught him that the Word of God is indestructible and dependable. 


“The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God endures forever." (Isaiah 40:8) May we use this great gift of God’s Word to strengthen ourselves and others. 

Monday, April 06, 2020

Extravagant Love

“That perfume was worth a small fortune." John 12:5




I like the retelling of the story of Mary of Bethany and her alabaster jar sung by Lillie McCloud. She is able to capture the poignancy of the moment when Mary pours this precious oil, this expensive perfume on Jesus' feet. Mary's offering was worth a year's wages, 300 denarii we are told, and came from far away, a place in Northern India. Was Mary so rich that she could afford to just give this away? But she broke her beautiful container to get every ounce of that ointment to wash Jesus' dirty feet with. And she wiped it with her long unbound hair. Why?


The song goes, "Though she spoke no words, everything she said was heard, as she poured her love for the Master from her box of alabaster. I've come to pour my praise on him, like oil from Mary's alabaster box...I can't forget the way life used to be. I was a prisoner to the sin that had me bound and I spent my days, poured my life without measure into a little treasure box I'd thought I'd found. Until the day Jesus came to me and healed my soul with the wonder of His touch. So now I'm giving back to Him all the praise He's worthy of. I've been forgiven and that's why I love Him so much!" 


Listen to the song here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=o3U4kxuBfIo


Do we realize how much God loves us that we are willing to respond to Him with an extravagant love? A love that costs us something? Are we aware of God's forgiveness and mercy that we desire 

to be wildly generous and give God the best of us, our "first fruits"? In John 12:3, it described that the whole house was filled with fragrance. Although Mary did not say anything, every one who was there (except Judas!) knew that Mary was offering a pure worship to Jesus. 


Lord, I am so unworthy, and so lacking in gratitude. As the Lenten season comes to a climax this week, help me to see Your face more fully, and the sacrifice You offered on the cross for me. Help me to love You with a wildly generous love, the same love You have for me! I do not deserve this love Lord, but You surround me with it! Thank you Lord!!!!

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Shaken

“This night, all of you will have your faith in Me shaken...” Matthew 26:31




Jesus knew His disciples would have a difficult time continuing to believe in Him that night of the Passover. Although Peter said to Him in reply, “Though all may have their faith in You shaken, mine will never be,” Jesus knew Peter would deny Him three times. Sure enough, before the night was over, Peter had said he did not know Jesus three times. Peter wept bitterly at his betrayal of His master and Lord. 


We can say these are times that try men’s souls. We ask God why are You allowing this to happen? Almost ever day we hear of good men and women dying. After intubating his wife because she had difficulty breathing, Dr. Dennis Tudtud also contracted Covid 19. His wife, Dr. Helen Tudtud passed away last Saturday, and he followed her the next Tuesday. Their heartbroken son said that his father was so generous and selfless he would pay for some of his patients’ chemotherapy himself. This scenario is repeated all over the world, elderly parents dying one after the other, husbands, wives, neighbors, good friends. Why God? 


Jesus knows that these are times that will test our faith, that will shake our trust in Him just like that night of the Passover. After the meal, He led the disciples to Gethsemane, where He told them to keep watch with Him and pray for an hour. He always found them asleep! I am sure if they prayed with Him, they would have been stronger and would have been given to grace to understand. And so it is with us. 


We need to pray for grace even if we do not deserve it. Grace is power. St. Paul wrote, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor. 15:10). We know that St. Paul was a powerhouse of the early Church, but it was the grace of God working in him that made him what he was.  Like the apostles and St. Paul, we need grace to get us through these dark times with our faith stronger than ever. 


Saturday, April 04, 2020

Desolation

My dwelling shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Ezekiel 37:27



In the beginning of Ezekiel chapter 37, Ezekiel describes his vision of a lifeless valley of very dry bones. It’s a desert. As Ezekiel gazes at this desolation, God asks him, “Can these bones live? Can they ever have life in them again?” Ezekiel answers that only God could ever know that. But looking at the bones, it seems as if all hope is gone. 


God then tells Ezekiel to speak to the bones on the ground. He tells them to, “Hear the word of Yahweh, hear the word of God.” God will then bring breath, the Holy Spirit, a new wind, to these bones and they will live again and in this vision God does just that.


When we look at the future, it seems just as bleak as this valley of dry bones. Economists are predicting a slow down in world economies, as much as 40% less than last year. Business has ground to a halt, and it will be difficult to get back on track. The stock market has taken a dive. 


If we look at this scenario, let us gaze through God’s eyes instead. He is doing a new thing, a major reset. Only He can bring a fresh, new wind through this desolation. He says, “Hear My Word, read My Word,” and I will dwell among you, and guide you, and you shall be my people once again. 

Friday, April 03, 2020

Mighty Champion

“But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion.” Jeremiah 20:11




Who does not need a mighty champion? Like Jeremiah the prophet, we need someone who can defend us when we are being persecuted, when we are under trial. Jeremiah went through many difficulties, that is why he is sometimes called the “weeping prophet”. 


Today we certainly need a mighty champion. It seems like everyday, we get heartbreaking news about people who are sick, or have died. We get frustrated because it does not seem like enough is being done to stem the tide of this virus, or to feed the poor and hungry. Where do we turn? 


One of my favorite verses is from Exodus 14:13, when Moses tells the people to just stand firm when they were being pursued by Pharaoh’s mighty army with 600 of Pharaoh’s best chariots and charioteers. The Jews were caught beside the shore with nowhere to hide. 


Moses reassured, “Fear not! Stand your ground and you will see the victory the Lord will win for you today...The Lord Himself will fight for you, you only have to keep still.” We know what happened. The waters parted, the Israelites went through, and the chariots drowned when the waters closed in on them. 


As Holy Week approaches,  we need to see that sin is even deadlier than the Covid 19 virus. When Jesus became man and was crucified, He took all our sins with Him. He is our mighty champion! All we need to do is repent, believe in Him, accept His saving work for us and receive His Holy Spirit. Pure grace. Pure gift. 


Thank You Lord for grace, a way out of sin and a way into Your family. 


Thursday, April 02, 2020

Look Up

“Look to the Lord in His strength; seek to serve Him constantly.” Psalm 105:4




Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that, “Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, and faith looks up." The year 2020 has been quite unbelievable, so many things have happened already. There was that almost explosion of Taal Volcano, that almost war between US and Iran, and now this global pandemic. My favorite meme goes: “Dear God, please reboot 2020. It has a virus".


If I didn’t know that God can work the worst situation into good, and He is already doing it now, amidst all the chaos and confusion of this standstill for most of us, I could easily go into a panic attack. But I know that the worse a situation gets, it only gives God more material to work with. I feel like we are in the middle of a suspense movie, and we are moving towards the climax. The plot is so complex, we do not know what the ending could be. But since we know the hero never dies, we are excited and nervous, but we know the ending is going to be great! 


God is in control. He holds our lives in His hands. He can make a way where there is no way. He will never abandon nor forsake us. Instead of “looking around” in anxiety at what is happening, the mounting death toll, the hungry people mounting protests, the lack of equipment to protect our health workers, we need to “look up” in faith. After praying, praying, praying, we can be sure of God’s steadying hand on our lives, and we can act secure in His presence. 


There are so many things we can do to bring light into this dark situation. We can donate funds to the many fund drives and food banks, we can volunteer to make face shields like my sister, we can encourage our friends and neighbors, and of course we can pray for the sick, and those who are working for our safety, and so much more. We may not know what tomorrow brings, but we can be certain who holds our future! 

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

White-Hot Furnace

“Even if He will not save us from the fire, O King, know that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue you set up.” Daniel 3:18




How many of us would be brave like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? They refused to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue and were thrown into a white-hot furnace. Amazingly, they were not consumed by the fire and King Nebuchadnezzar praised their God when he saw an angel inside the furnace with them. 


I can say we are all in a furnace today, something we cannot control and do not know the end of. Even people with all the power and money in the world are at the mercy of this conflagration. Some CEOs, Prime Ministers, and leaders have been exposed to, afflicted by, some have even died from the invisible enemy. The biggest economies of the world are uncertain of what measures to take, as we are all connected, all in this fire together. 


But what is more important to God is what is happening in our hearts. Some are challenging God, some are blaming God, some are asking, “Why, God?” When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were confronted with a choice, they said, “Even if God does not save us, we will not worship your god.” We will continue to trust in the true God. 


When we call out to God for help, is our faith conditional on whether He will save us or not? Or will we be like the three young men and say, even if You, O Lord, do not save us, we will continue to trust and believe in You! 

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

God Shouting in our Pain


“We have sinned in complaining against the Lord and you.” Numbers 21:7




Poor Moses! He was stuck with an ungrateful and rebellious people! Even after they had seen God’s mighty saving power, they still complained. Imagine saying after Moses led them out from slavery, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food.” 


In punishment, the Lord sent Saraph serpents, which bit people and many died. In a way, some of us are like the Israelites in the harsh desert, with some of us dying after being “bitten” by the Covid-19 virus. After complaining about horrendous traffic, our workload, no time for family, our busy schedule, we suddenly find ourselves in a barren land. It is difficult to get food, we have to find new ways of connecting with family, friends and office mates we used to see day in and day out. It is unprecedented because it is happening all over the world. 


How are we dealing with the isolation and confinement? Are we continuing to complain or are we finding that we can meet God where we are right now? Are we grumbling because we are forced to stay at home? Or are we appreciative that we have abruptly been taken out of our self-preoccupied world and dropped unceremoniously into a new place where the emptiness gives us new eyes and ears to see and hear God speak? 


The desert can be a beautiful place. God can speak louder in the emptiness and silence of a desert. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Is God shouting to us right now? 


Monday, March 30, 2020

Sin No More

"Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more."John 8:10-11




In John chapter 8, we meet a woman accused of adultery. Scribes and Pharisees lead her to Jesus. Can we imagine her shame, her self-loathing, how dirty she feels when they force her to stand in front of everyone?


"Teacher," they said to Him, "This woman has been caught in the act of adultery. In the law, Moses ordered such women to be stoned. (In the law, Dt. 22:24, both the man and the woman who sinned should be stoned. Where was the man?) What do You have to say?"


I imagine that I am one of the crowd. Do I condemn her and want to spit on her? Do I know her? Perhaps I knew her history and think, "Good! It's about time she gets her comeuppance!" Do I pity her? Do I continue to jostle the crowd to see what happens out of curiosity, in satisfaction, or in revulsion, my eyes glued to the scene like it is a suspenseful thriller? What did Jesus do? He bent down and started tracing the ground with His finger. How many have attempted to surmise what He wrote? Why didn't John write down what He wrote? The thing is, He wrote, not for a second or a few seconds. He wrote all throughout the persistent questioning of the Scribes and Pharisees. He ignored them and their questions.


Finally He straightened up and said, "Let the man among you who has no sin be the first to cast a stone at her." Then He bent down and wrote on the ground again. Suddenly there is silence but for the shamed shuffling of feet. No one cast a stone, even if Jesus did not say DO NOT cast a stone in direct violation of Moses' law. I am one of the crowd, ashamed to have taken part in this poor woman's humiliation. I leave and do not know what happens next.


I believe when we sin, Jesus wants to meet us one to one. I like to think only the woman knew what Jesus wrote. Maybe John interviewed many and asked them if they knew what Jesus wrote. No one knew. But Jesus obviously thought it was important, as He spent much time writing it on the ground. Easily erased after the one it was meant for read it. When I sin, it is me and Jesus, against a condemning world. But Jesus did not come to condemn me, but to save me (Jn 3:17). When I sin, all I need is to stand, sit, kneel, or prostrate myself in front of Him. He will say, "I don't condemn you. Sin no more." And He will tell me words for me alone, no one else will know. 

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Take Away the Stone

“Take away the stone.” Luke 11:39




Even if Jesus said He was the resurrection and the life in John 11:25, He still mourned when his friend Lazarus died. Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, and I imagine He weeps with us when we lose someone dear to us. Jesus cannot fail to have compassion for all the wonderful people we have lost in these terrible times. We could not have imagined the death toll in Italy, in Spain, in the US, and dear God, we hope we will not see a devastating rise in deaths here in the Philippines. We have already lost so many doctors and so many are still quarantined in hospitals. 


Death is always a terrible loss, whether the person who dies is a talented, powerful, beautiful, loving human being or not. The potential to have lived a better, more fruitful, purposeful life is cut off. We are sad that we cannot be with that person any longer. So yes, Jesus mourned and wept, and we do the same. 


But we should not take the words of Jesus as platitudes, a feel good cliché, a trite remark to quell uneasiness. HE is the resurrection and the life and whoever believes in HIM, when he dies, will live a full abundant life and never die again. This can become a reality for us and should be a concrete truth for us to deal with the horror of these days. 


When I could see my mother’s failing health, I was terrified to lose her. We were so close, we would go to mass almost every day and talk about all sorts of things afterwards. She was not only my mother, she was my friend and kindred spirit. My family and I exhausted all means of praying, various medical solutions, and even went on a pilgrimage with her to Europe with a healing priest. Five years after her diagnosis of cancer, she left us. The day she died, God gave me the most amazing, miraculous glimpse of her heavenly home with Him, and my fear of losing her turned to joy. I was in awe of what God did for me! It was truly the most wonderful gift! 


Yes it is but right to mourn our loved ones, but let us also know that Jesus can take away the stone of despair and sadness, if we take His words to heart. 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

In You I Hope

“O Lord, my God, in You I have hoped; save me from all those who persecute me and save me.” Psalm 7:2




Who can we turn to during perilous times like these when life seems so fragile and every day one does not know what to expect? Do we turn to men? Can we expect the government to save us? Science? With all the brilliant men and women racing to find a cure, a vaccine, to put an end to this scourge, it still rages on day after day. The most powerful countries in the world have not been able to save their people. 


There is One who is more powerful than death. If we know Him as a friend, we will not be afraid. I have only to remember the days before my open heart surgery last December. I was totally 100% at peace. The night before the operation I was sound asleep and I woke up refreshed. Who can do that but God? Grace surrounded me as surely as a comfortable cloak shielded me from cold. Of course I was also bombarded by so many prayers from family, friends and even strangers. 


I will forever be grateful for my brother-in-law praying for me during my operation. He saw me surrounded by mighty angels while I was on the operating table. That’s why we need to pray for each other at this time. It is a sure weapon against our invisible enemy. Let us pray that God will send His powerful angels to protect us and to especially surround those who are sick. 


Let us not succumb to fear and anxiety which is said to lower our immune system. Every time we are fearful, let us turn to the Lord who is the giver of hope and every good and perfect gift. He is especially near to us when we are afraid or broken hearted or uncertain. If we turn our minds and hearts to Him He can give us the strength we need for today. 

Friday, March 27, 2020

Broken Hearted


“The Lord is near to the broken-hearted; and those who are crushed in spirit He saves.” Psalm 34:19




There are just too many heart breaking events these past days. From around the world come stories that may have seemed unbelievable to us just a couple of months ago, but we are just barely into a new year, and it seems as if 2020 has just gone on and on. The march of this epidemic has been inexorable in almost all parts of the world. 


Sometimes we are tempted to dismiss all the awful news as fake, but we can’t. In Italy, there are 80,589 Coronavirus cases, and 8,215 deaths as of today. Here in the Philippines there are 707 cases with 45 dead. Those aren’t statistics, those are people. People fighting for their lives, young and old, rich and poor, men, women with families, jobs, people who need them. The worst thing about this sickness is the loneliness. You have to fight it without your friends and family beside you, and when you die, you die alone. The toll is so hard on the healthworkers who usually want to get to know their patients. Because this disease is so contagious, and because they need to take care of so many, they cannot spend the usual time caring for the patient. 


Hospitals are overwhelmed and understaffed. There are not enough equipment to keep their frontliners safe. How many good doctors have died in the battlefield? Too many and many more are still fighting for their lives. Lord, this is just too much to deal with. I do not even want to take a peek into the future! 


What do we need to do? We need to stop reading, and watching the news all the time. There is just so much we can take. We need to breathe deep and thank God for what we have right now, where we are. Jesus chose to give thanks on the night He was betrayed. We need to do that too, as a defense against the dark forces trying to engulf us. 


We have to pray to the God who is in control, and who loves us as if we were His only child. We need to stand on the uncompromised Word of God and let it surround us, back, front, both sides and on top. No amount of heartbreaking stories on Viber, Facebook or in the news can compete with the joy, peace and vibrancy of the real Good News. We need to anchor ourselves on that or we will flounder helplessly in the waves of fear and uncertainty. 


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Idols

“They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them, making for themselves a molten calf and worshipping it...” Exodus 32:8




It is easy to think that this Covid-19 pandemic ravaging the world is a plague God’s wrath has sent. In the book of Exodus, we read that when Moses went up Mount Sinai leaving the Israelites for 40 days and 40 nights, they made a molten calf out of their gold ornaments and proclaimed that as their god! Although we may find that absurd, people today have many idols as well. 


I was listening to a pastor’s wife, and she said she was flabbergasted during one prayer time when God accused her of having an idol. “What is my idol, Father?” she asked, and she was chastened when she realized she was too preoccupied with getting thin. She was always on a diet, always in the gym exercising, always anxious when she gained weight. Even something like that which consumes us to the point that we lose balance in what is important can be an idol. 


How much more if we take a look at what the world has been giving importance to? Women having abortions because they want to get ahead, because babies are inconvenient, because they want to continue their free lifestyles. Politicians stealing the money of the people in the millions with no thought of the deprivations of the poor they swore to serve. Businessmen who want to be so successful at all costs bribing and cutting costs and not paying the correct taxes. The list goes on and on. 


A congressman in the US was crying as he asked forgiveness from God for the many sins of his nation. We too should cry out to God especially in these days of uncertainty. Perhaps, yes perhaps, God is angry. We haven’t been grateful for all His gifts. We have not been good stewards of this world He gave us to take care of. But God’s anger is always because He wants the best for us. Just as parents get angry and discipline their children when they disobey, God’s chastening is always for our good. God’s mercy and forgiveness when we turn to Him is always greater than His justice. He has a passionate love for us, His people. He cannot resist us when we turn to Him in humility and repentance. 


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Handmaiden of the Lord

“Behold I am the handmaiden of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38




Today most Christians around the world celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord as we commemorate the visit of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary. Gabriel informs her that she has found favor with God and she will bear a son. He gives her a series of clues about this baby: He shall be named Jesus, He will be great, He will be called Son of the Most High, God will give Him the throne of David his father, He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end. Whew! That’s a whole lot to swallow! Especially for a young Jewish girl who was hardly out of her teens. 


Mary knew exactly what the angel was talking about because she grew up pondering God’s word. She was to be the sign God would give, the virgin with child that the prophet Isaiah foretold to King Ahaz (Isaiah 8:10). Jesus was to be the the star that rose from Jacob spoken of in Numbers 24:17. Her Son Jesus was the descendant of King David prophesied in 2 Samuel 7:12-16. The coming Messiah was spoken about throughout the Hebrew Bible and the Jews, Mary included, longed for His coming. 


When she voiced her assent, “May it be done to me according to your word,” the Holy Spirit came upon her, and the power of the Most High overshadowed her. It was not until nine months later that the Word became flesh and dwelt among men. 


Sometimes we expect God to answer our prayers right away. We get impatient and sometimes think He is not listening. We are too influenced by the fast pace of this world. God has His own timing. We should train ourselves to have an obedient, waiting, and patient spirit like Mary. “Let it be done unto me according to Your Word.” Then we will see how sweet is the fruit of our prayer. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

More Things are Wrought by Prayer

“God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress, Therefore we fear not, though the earth be shaken and mountains plunge into the depths of the sea.” Psalm 46:2-3




I am sure many are dealing with fear and anxiety at this time. It is but natural as we face many uncertainties. A neighbor of mine went to a party with her husband before the quarantine and found out there was a Covid-19 positive patient present at the event. She confessed she was filled with fear as she faced her own mortality. I see many such confessions on Facebook. 


I think the most poignant was from an anesthesiologist who was one of the frontliner’s in the battlefield against Covid-19. Before he passed away, he seemed very troubled. Without his family beside him, he texted, “The turn of events is just no longer going in my favor. The feeling you get, aside from extreme pains all over, difficulty of breathing and as if all life is being sucked from your body.” 


“They will be putting cutdown lines and central tubes on me anytime soon. If they intubate me and place me on ventilator, then the game is almost over,” he said. But his last words were about his autistic son and his wife, a doctor who was also fighting for her life in another part of the hospital. He pleaded that his friends and family take care of them both. 


Is it really possible to be strong and fear not when in the midst of a world shaking unprecedented pandemic? The mountains have not plunged into the depths of the sea but our stock markets have certainly taken a beating. We do not know the future, and when all this will be over. 


There is One who knows the future, and who holds this world in His hands. Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote these favorite lines, “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of”. We may not be aware of it, and we certainly forget, but we are surrounded by God’s answers to our prayers. If we are anxious and afraid, let us turn away from the TV, radio, Viber, Twitter or wherever we are getting our bad news, and turn to God. He can and will surround us with grace if we persevere in prayer. If we read the Psalms, He can even give us peace beyond understanding. Whatever our problems, God’s Word will not return to Him without accomplishing good in our life. Let us place our trust in the One who loves us best. 



Monday, March 23, 2020

Signs and Wonders

“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” John 4:48




We have been praying for a miracle for God to put a stop to this relentless invasion of the Covid-19 virus. God granted us a miracle in January after Taal Volcano erupted and spewed ashes that reached Metro Manila, even up to the Ilocos region. It disrupted classes, work schedules and flights in and out of Manila. Listening to the experts, it seemed as if an eruption of great magnitude was inevitable. But our people prayed and God spared us the destruction, the loss of lives, and the heartbreak. 


Today, do we dare pray for yet another miracle? Observing what is happening in other countries like Italy, with far superior health services than ours, the normal course for this virus epidemic does not bode well for our country. People dying with Covid-like symptoms but who have not been tested, are not even part of the already alarming statistics given out by the DOH everyday. We just know about them because they are part of our circle. 


We need our eyes of faith to see what God sees. Death is no stranger to God. It is a way to bring His beloved people to their real home where there is no more mourning or weeping. We are devastated here for all the doctors who left the battlefield, for all the patients who lost the fight, but in heaven there is rejoicing, maybe even a celestial parade to welcome them where they truly belong! 


Where we see the world stopping, all the money and time lost, God sees healing and renewal. He is helping not only nature to mend, but our souls to take a much needed rest from all the harassments of our busy lives. If we take God at His Word, we need not be anxious for anything. By prayer and petition, and even with thanksgiving, we just need to present our requests to Him, and His peace, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7) 


Yes, I am praying for a miracle which is well within God’s power to grant, but I also know our lives are in His hands. He is in control and we just need to trust Him because He knows exactly what He is doing. 


Sunday, March 22, 2020

Expose the Works of Darkness

“Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them...” Ephesians 5:10-11




I want to look at the bright side of things as much as anybody, but as Christians, we also have the responsibility to “expose the fruitless works of darkness.” In Proverbs 31:8-9, we read this injunction: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” 


Some people would prefer we do not say anything critical about the way things are done, about how our government does things, how our political leaders do not do a good job. If more of us do not speak out, how will things change? Many in our society are voiceless, and do not feel they count for anything. We who have a voice, need to speak for them. We also need to act for them. 


At the start of the quarantine, it was glaringly apparent that our leaders had no plans in place for the urban poor. How would they eat during a time they could not go to work, when they only got paid when they appeared for work? One said “walang namamatay sa gutom” (no one dies from hunger) when he defended the quarantine for one month. There were also no funds to provide our hospitals, doctors and frontliners with equipment to fight the epidemic. The private sector had to step in scrounging around for protective equipment, even making diy face shields. One doctor even had to make do with water bottles to protect his staff! 


Yes, we should always have a thankful and grateful heart but we should also be vigilant, ever on the watch for the work of the enemy, for injustice, dishonesty, evil intentions, arrogance or just plain ineptness. Critical feedback is crucial especially during times of crises when lives are at stake. We can see that the government listens when there are enough of us who shout out. 



Saturday, March 21, 2020

A Sinner


“God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Luke 18:13




It is difficult for us to confront our own sinfulness but Lent is precisely the time to do it. During these difficult times when we are forced to give up our regular work, our get togethers with family and friends, when we cannot celebrate birthdays, we cannot fail to ask questions. What have we done to deserve this? 


In the first reading for today from Hosea, we read, “Come, let us return to the Lord, it is He who has rent, but He will heal us.” (Hosea 6:1) In the NIV this translates to “He has torn us to pieces”. In the CEV, this is what we find: “He has torn us to shreds”. An atheist would propose, “There is no God! Why would a god allow so much pain and suffering in this world?” I am glad our President did not use the situation to curse God but instead, urged us to pray. 


It is said the gate to heaven is narrow, but it may even be so low that only the humble of heart can get in. I know that our Father in heaven wants all of us to get into heaven. These days when we cannot fail to see that all that man has accomplished through the centuries can be wiped out in a matter of months by an invisible enemy, we face our helplessness and turn to God. Yes, to me this shows there is a living, mighty God, who wants to show us what is important, what will last through eternity. It is not what man has built, but what He has given to us. And that is what we are left with now. Our relationship with Him. Our loving Father is asking us to return to Him, to listen to Him, to pray. “He has struck us, but He will bind our wounds....For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:1-6)

Friday, March 20, 2020

Love Your Neighbor

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31




At no other time in my life is this verse more poignant. I was so frustrated the other day as we were trying to organize a feeding program for the poor in our parish. So many roadblocks. We were mostly senior citizens, and we needed to stay home. How could this be accomplished? How could it be organized? 


In the Parish of Sta. Maria Della Strada, their Parish Priest and Parish Pastoral Council were able to coordinate a program to give 150 families 1.5 kilos of rice and canned goods every day until April 14. The parishioners were able to donate money online. Perhaps more people will be able to implement this in their parishes. It is hard to think we will just allow people to go hungry. We also need to pray for our mayors, our Barangay captains and their people, who have to implement the gargantuan task of feeding thousands of urban poor every day. Our mayor said there are 400,000 poor families in Quezon City alone. Let us look for good feeding programs and donate to supplement the government’s effort. 


I wonder what Mother Teresa would have done if she was alive today? Would she be wearing a mask and a hazmat suit as she went about visiting the sick? I always remember her funny little face which was always described as “beautiful” by people who saw her in person, when I think about the poor. She said that we should strive to see everyone, even those who want to do us harm, as “Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor.” How can we help Jesus from where we are with what we have during this time that we have to stay home? Let us find good feeding programs to contribute to, and pray continuously for God’s mercy upon all of us.