Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Our Lady of Guadalupe

“A great sign appeared in the sky...a woman clothed with the sun...she was with child...” Revelation 12:1-2




Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, or in the original Spanish, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. 


In the 1400s, Mexico was under Aztec oppression. In every town, there was a temple pyramid, where Aztec priests would offer human sacrifices to their god Huitzilopochtli. This god was the "Lover of Hearts and Drinker of Blood," and the priests would cut out the beating hearts of victims, usually adult men but very often children. Over 50,000 human beings were sacrificed each year. Then in 1523, Franciscan missionaries came and evangelized the Indian people. 


On December 9, 1531, Mary, the mother of Jesus, appeared to a 57-year old simple peasant man, an Aztec convert, who was on his way to mass. Mary asked Juan Diego to request Bishop Zumarraga that a shrine be built in her honor on the site where she appeared. When Juan presented this request to the Bishop, the Bishop naturally asked for a sign. After several encounters with Mary, Juan brought the Bishop what he asked for. When Juan opened his tilma, his peasant cloak, beautiful Castillan roses, foreign to Mexico, fell out, but more than that, the Bishop saw an extraordinary image of Our Lady on the tilma. The Bishop wept at the sight. That tilma still survives today and thousands go to see it in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.


We may be skeptical about apparitions and images appearing on tilmas or anywhere else. However, because Mary spoke to Juan Diego in his native language, and because she was wearing the Aztec dress for pregnant women in the image, this provoked millions of conversions to the Catholic faith in just under seven years. 


Today, we may not have human sacrifices to gods, but 24.9 million people are being sacrificed at the altar of human trafficking. It is the fastest growing crime and generates an estimated $99 billion dollars each year. 


One woman’s story is particularly poignant. She gave money to some people who were going to help her get to another country where she would study nursing. Instead, she was forced to have sex with about 40 men a day. When she got pregnant and gave birth, they took her baby and sold the baby to pedophiles. Irene couldn’t take it anymore and leapt from the 4th floor of the apartment where she was held hostage. She was found, brought to A21, a foundation that fights sexual trafficking, and today, she is pursuing her dream of becoming a nurse. 


There is too much evil in the world. But the vision in the Book of Revelation chapter 12 gives us hope. Because of Mary’s yes, because she gave birth to Jesus, and because Jesus gave His life for us on the cross, “Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of God and the authority of His anointed.” 

(Rev. 12:10)





Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Grass Wilts

“The grass withers, the flower wilts, the Word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8




Isaiah’s prophecies in chapter 40 are so poetic, but the difference between beautiful poetry and the Word of God, is that God’s Words are true. They will come to pass. Our bodies will become dust, mountains will be levelled, stars will burn out, dictators will shrivel up and return to the earth, but the Word of God stands forever. 


Yesterday, I was looking for a figurine of the Holy Family in one of the largest department stores in the Philippines. I could find so many snowmen although there is not a molecule of snow in the Philippines. There were mounds of Santas. I have nothing against Saint Nicholas but he is not the reason for the season. I found one, just one beautiful nativity set, but it was too big to place in the center of my Advent wreath. 


If a pagan walked around the mall, he will have no idea what the celebration is about. There are no pictures or statues or even words to show that Christmas is all about the joy of Jesus’ coming into our world to save us. If the same pagan walked into our home, will he find beautiful shiny trees but no baby Jesus? No bible passage at least? More importantly, if he saw our heart, would he find that we are preparing for Jesus’ coming? Have we been praying more or have we been spending more time wrapping gifts? Have we found the time to read the Bible or have we been too busy decorating our homes? 


Let us remember that all these external decorations, parties and gifts, are worthless in the face of our eternal soul. We all need to go back to God who loves us so much He sent His Son to save us. Let us spend some time appreciating the Giver instead of the gifts we give and receive. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

Take Up the Mat

 

"Some men came along carrying a paralytic on a mat." Luke 5:18




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 past, by our health, 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. Because they cared, because of their love and compassion 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. 


When a friend’s daughter, Vivien, got hit by a jeep and got horribly mangled, so many rallied to pray, to “bring her in a stretcher” to Jesus. Some thought she wasn’t going to make it and told us we have to be prepared. Some doctors were not hopeful, but after several surgeries, she is walking with crutches. We saw her last Saturday with a big smile, and her indomitable sprit, practicing using her hands! Yes, I saw a walking miracle last Saturday! 


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. 

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Make Ready

“Make ready the way of the Lord.” Luke 3:4




Christmas is not usually associated with taking longer periods of praying, reading the Word, fasting and penance. We usually skip the season of Advent, and go right into the merry making, and hectic pace of the season of Christmas. But just as we go through a time of preparation when we have a special visitor coming to stay at our house, we want to prepare our hearts and minds for Jesus. 


The Church recommends we take some time to examine our life and see if there are areas we need to attend to. Our modern society has lost a sense of sin. It is not cool to talk of sin. That is exactly what our enemy wants. To grow in holiness, we need a stronger sense of sin. The more we sin, the more callous we become, the more accepting we become of our own weakness and of the sin of others. That is how our society got into the predicament we are in. 


Lord, have mercy on us, help us to take some time to go into our own personal “desert” like John the Baptist, so we can hear Your voice, and make a clean space for Your coming. 


Saturday, December 08, 2018

The “Nahash”

“He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” Genesis 3:15




God’s words to Eve, the first woman, is very enigmatic, but when you look at the whole panorama of God’s plan from Genesis to Revelation, we can understand it better. As St. Augustine once observed, “The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.” 




Adam and Eve sinned and Eve said the “nahash”, the literal translation of which is serpent dragon, had tricked her. God then warned the “nahash”, “Because you have done this...I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” 


From the first book of the Bible, if we go to the last book, Revelation, we meet the “nahash” again. This same horrible, fierce serpent dragon with seven heads and ten horns intimidates a woman clothed with the sun about to give birth. The “nahash” was just so ready to devour the offspring of the woman. But was he able to? No. The offspring was snatched away from the “nahash” and was caught up to God. 




The “nahash” still intimidates us into submission, like it did the first woman. It deceives, feeds lies and misinformation so that we will disobey God, and not only that, follow what the “nahash” says. But it cannot frustrate God’s plans and purposes. Let us rejoice and meditate on God’s Word this Advent. Christmas draws near, and Christmas, the birth of the Virgin Mary’s offspring, is God’s declaration of war on the “nahash” who wants to devour all of us! 


Friday, December 07, 2018

The Other Side is a Crown

“Do you believe that I can do this?” Matthew 9:28




Corrie Ten Boom, who was imprisoned because she and other family members helped Jews escape during the Holocaust, spent the rest of her life spreading God’s Word. One time she was in Argentina and she visited patients in a hospital after a horrible polio epidemic. A nurse asked her to speak to a man who was lying in a bed that went up and down so he could breathe. Corrie cried despairingly to the Lord that she could not do it because she felt like crying in a corner. 




She received God’s answer to her: “I have known that for a long time, but it is good you know it too, for now you can let Me do it.” After that, she took strength from the Lord and spoke to the poor man. She showed him an embroidery where the back was a messy tangle of threads, and the other side was a crown. 




She said, “When I see you lying on this bed, I think of this embroidery. There has been a time in my life when it seemed like the tangled side of the crown. I saw no pattern, no beauty, no harmony. I was in prison, where my sister died before my eyes. But all the time I knew that God has no problems, only plans. There is never panic in heaven. 


“Later on I saw God’s side of the pattern. Because I had to go through deep suffering in that prison, I was able to comfort people afterward because I could tell them, ‘Jesus is stronger than the deepest darkness. When you have experienced the darkness of a concentration camp, you know how deep that darkness can be!’”


After some time of listening to Corrie’s message about Jesus, the man wrote, “I see already the beautiful side of the embroidery of my life”. Corrie went back the next day to speak with the Jewish man again, but the nurse said he passed away. She showed Corrie the note he left before he closed his eyes. “For the first time in my life I have prayed in Jesus’ name.” 


God used Corrie Ten Boom when she was not able to do it. We just need to do what He wants us to do because He can do it, He can supply what we need. Let us just believe in all His promises and try to see God’s side of the pattern. 


Thursday, December 06, 2018

No One Wants to be a Fool

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool us who built his house on sand.”

Matthew 7:26




No one wants to be a fool, but many of us act like fools when we do not take Jesus’ words seriously. Many of us prefer to sing Frank Sinatra’s popular song, “I did it my way!” Part of the song goes: “I planned each charted course, Each careful step along the byway, And more, much more than this I did it my way”. A lot of times, when we do it our way, we find our sweat and time was wasted. Psalm 127:1 reminds us that unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain. 


When I was 12 years old, I remember what happened when a 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit Manila. A 6-storey building fell like pancakes, one floor stacked up on another. 268 people were buried alive and we watched the rescue effort on our black and white TV. Ruby Towers was not located along the Pasig River, but many of the buildings constructed on land with alluvial deposits suffered the most damage during that strong earthquake. 


It will not matter if our house has gold doorknobs and marble floors, if it is built on sand, it will topple like Jenga wood blocks. Let us make sure we heed Jesus’ words and build our life on the rock and strong foundation that is Jesus (Psalm 18:2 and many other verses). 

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

WOYWW: Skepticism vs. Faith



We made a mess last week when I did my Life Map workshop with 21 participants. 



It was a lot of fun, sharing about my own journey the past years, and how my own life maps has helped me! 


And here’s my Life Map for 2019. 




“How could we ever get enough bread in this deserted spot to satisfy such a crowd?” Matthew 15:33


There is so much skepticism in the world. It’s cooler to be a skeptic than to feed our faith. Or perhaps we want to be practical, and really hope and faith are not practical. We can’t touch it or see it. We can’t apply reason or critical thinking when it comes to Jesus, if He really can give us enough bread, if He really can guide us, if He can help solve world hunger and pollution and corruption. The list goes on. 


My starting point is always, is He who He claims to be? If He is God, then we should take Him and His words seriously. If He is God and He is not flicking His finger to solve poverty and the huge problems of the world, God does not have to explain to us why He allows it all to continue. 


God’s ways are far above our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. He chose to come as a baby, a weak human being, dependent on His mother. He was born of the lineage of David, and in Bethlehem. All this was foretold by the prophets Micah and Isaiah. In the Old Testament God gave various signs to watch out for so we could recognize the Messiah when He comes. And some of those prophecies were about how the Messiah would be betrayed and put on trial, beaten and mocked. There are about 300 prophecies in the Old Testament unveiled in the New. 


A mathematician said that the chance of one person fulfilling only 8 of those 300 prophecies is 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000. 1 person fulfilling 48 prophecies: 1 chance in 10 to the 157th power. Only God could have divinely orchestrated when He would be born, and the events afterwards. One may wonder: WHY? 


LOVE. God so loved the world that He GAVE His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him may not perish but have everlasting life. Let us believe in Him, and His Words, so that one day we will be with Him in the fullness of His plan for us! 


Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Victory in Defeat

“Many prophets and kings wished to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” Luke 10:24




Many leaders in our country today, our President, most of our Senators and Congressmen, the justices of the courts, people in government, are shortsighted. They work hard and cunningly for money and power, even though I am sure they have heard the Gospel saying that these things are worthless in eternity. Meanwhile, many of our people live lives of desperation. They are poor, oppressed, voiceless, killed for the flimsiest excuses, deceived by false news and misinformation. 


Is our situation hopeless? Corrie Ten Boom along with her father and sister, and 27 other people in their home, were imprisoned for helping Jews during the Holocaust. She wrote this in her book “The Hiding Place” about her experience: “In my prison cell I gulped entire Gospels at a reading, seeing whole the magnificent drama of salvation. Was it possible that this war, Scheveningen prison, this very cell, none of it was unforeseen or accidental? Could it be part of the pattern first revealed in the Gospels? Hadn’t Jesus been defeated as utterly and unarguably as our little underground group and our small plans had been? But if the Gospels were truly a pattern of God’s activity, then defeat was only the beginning. I would look around at the bare little cell and wonder what conceivable victory could come from a place like this.”




We too can look around our beleaguered country, torn into opposing factions by a leadership intent on dividing and conquering us. But there is no defeat in Christ Jesus. Only victory. Let us just keep praying and thanking God for He is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us”. (Ephesians 3:20). 


Monday, December 03, 2018

Jesus was Amazed

Jesus was amazed and said to those following Him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.” Matthew 8:10




I wonder of how many people in the Philippines or in the world, will Jesus be impressed enough to say this? The man was not even a Jew, he was not even one of the priests of the Temple! He was a centurion, an officer of the Roman infantry who commanded a centuria composed of anywhere from 100 to 1000 legionaries. He was a pagan, but certainly not an unbeliever. 


The centurion approached Jesus and pleaded with Him to heal his servant who was suffering dreadfully. From the first, we see he is no ordinary man. He is a compassionate man who does not look down on others. Jesus sees his heart and immediately answers, “I will come and cure your servant. Then the centurion says, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” Every time we attend mass, before we receive the Eucharist, we say the words of this centurion who knew more about Jesus than the Jews around him. 


“I have soldiers under me. I say to one, ‘Go’ and he goes. I say to another, ‘Do this’ and he does it.” The centurion understood that Jesus need not go anywhere near his house to heal his servant. “Just say the word!” How do we get a faith like this centurion? 





First, we need to approach Jesus in humility, knowing He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We need not be afraid that He will spurn us, whatever kind of person we are. The centurion was a man of war, but he knew in his heart of hearts that if he had compassion for his servant, more so would Jesus have it. We need to trust that Jesus will help us, even if we are unworthy. We are all unworthy to have Jesus under our roof. But Jesus wants to come and visit us this season of Advent and Christmas. Let us prepare our heart and home to receive Him by cleaning it of any small and big sins that would make Him turn away. 


Jesus was Amazed

Jesus was amazed and said to those following Him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.” Matthew 8:10




I wonder of how many people in the Philippines or in the world, will Jesus be impressed enough to say this? The man was not even a Jew, he was not even one of the priests of the Temple! He was a centurion, an officer of the Roman infantry who commanded a centuria composed of anywhere from 100 to 1000 legionaries. He was a pagan, but certainly not an unbeliever. 


The centurion approached Jesus and pleaded with Him to heal his servant who was suffering dreadfully. From the first, we see he is no ordinary man. He is a compassionate man who does not look down on others. Jesus sees his heart and immediately answers, “I will come and cure your servant. Then the centurion says, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” Every time we attend mass, before we receive the Eucharist, we say the words of this centurion who knew more about Jesus than the Jews around him. 


“I have soldiers under me. I say to one, ‘Go’ and he goes. I say to another, ‘Do this’ and he does it.” The centurion understood that Jesus need not go anywhere near his house to heal his servant. “Just say the word!” How do we get a faith like this centurion? 





First, we need to approach Jesus in humility, knowing He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We need not be afraid that He will spurn us, whatever kind of person we are. The centurion was a man of war, but he knew in his heart of hearts that if he had compassion for his servant, more so would Jesus have it. We need to trust that Jesus will help us, even if we are unworthy. We are all unworthy to have Jesus under our roof. But Jesus wants to come and visit us this season of Advent and Christmas. Let us prepare our heart and home to receive Him by cleaning it of any small and big sins that would make Him turn away. 


Sunday, December 02, 2018

Maranatha!

“Be on guard lest your spirits become bloated with indulgence and drunkenness and worldly cares.” Luke 21:34




In yesterday’s Catholic readings, we have the same set of verses but it is expanded to include Jesus’ description of His Second Coming. “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heaven will be shaken. And they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” (Luke 21:25-28)


I don’t think Jesus is prone to exaggeration, do you? If ever, I believe he is limited by human language that does not have the power and capability to describe what is going to happen. But Jesus tells the disciples, “...stand erect and raise your heads...” This means they are not to be dismayed but actually hopeful. But only if they are ready, only if their hearts were not drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life. 




Perhaps like me, you do not go out carousing and get drunk, but my heart can become “drowsy from the anxieties of daily life”. In Luke 8, there is a story about how the family of Jesus could not get near him because there was a crowd about him. There is always a crowd around us as well. A “crowd” of tasks to do, a “crowd” of people to talk to, to pray for, to visit, a “crowd” of activities in church, in our organizations. There’s always the “crowd” of irresistible distractions like Facebook, Netflix and Twitter. As Christmas nears, and we are now in the 1st Sunday of Advent, we should be intentional in following Jesus’ advice. Let us not let all these crowds keep us from Him. Come, Lord Jesus, come! Maranatha! 

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Advent

“Be on the watch. Pray constantly....” Luke 21:36




In my other Bibles, it reads: “Be vigilant at all times, be on guard, be awake, be alert, and pray...” This is how to prepare for Jesus’ coming, for “the day will close on you unexpectedly, by surprise, suddenly, catching you unawares like a trap.” 


Today is the last day in the Catholic Liturgical Year. Tomorrow we start anew with the season of Advent. In the Philippines, most of us do not celebrate Advent, which is a time of waiting and preparation akin to the season of Lent. We hear the sounds and sights of Christmas as soon as the “ber” months come around. This is partly our fault. Our stores in the mall get decked out in red and green, with festive garlands all lighted up, in the hopes that people passing are reminded to buy gifts. 


Instead of being caught up in the frenzy of the season, the Church reminds us that Advent is a time to prepare us for heaven. The focus is on the end of all things. Jesus said in verse 34, that we should beware that our hearts do not become drowsy from carousing or drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life. Many of us get overburdened and depressed, weighed down, during this season, because of all the things we have to attend to. Gift-giving, new clothes, parties, overeating, strain not only the budget but also relationships, and our minds and bodies, if we are not careful. 




We should take heed. ALL THAT IS NOT IMPORTANT to the birthday celebrant. He wants us to sit down and talk with Him. He wants us to prepare our hearts to receive Him. Each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Him who is the giver of all gifts. Let us take time this Advent season to spend time with the Gift-Giver, the King of Kings. Let us get to know Him who who loved us first, and who loves us best! 


Friday, November 30, 2018

How to Fish for People

“Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19




I am so used to hearing the phrase “fishers of men”, that I just take this verse for granted but in the 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 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! 

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Wedding Feast

“Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” Revelation 19:9




Sometimes we have the idea that heaven is a nice, quiet peaceful place where harps are playing and angels are flitting delicately around. Reading the Book of Revelation destroys that idea completely. St. John the apostle writes in the 19th chapter that he heard a sound of a vast crowd in heaven SHOUTING, “Hallelujah! Salvation is from our God. Glory and power belong to Him alone.” Again and again their voices rang, “Hallelujah!”. The shout of the huge crowd sounded like the roar of mighty ocean waves. “Let us be glad and rejoice!” 


These sounds of victory from a huge crowd reminds me of what happened yesterday in Araneta Coliseum when the UP Fighting Maroons beat the valiant Adamson Soaring Falcons. Before the win, the fighting was intense, and no one could predict the winner of the back and forth battle with several heart-stopping ties. I can imagine the saints and angels in heaven looking down at what is happening on earth. The stakes are high and there are small and big wars every where on the earth. But the battle is for hearts and minds and souls. If you see the battle on social media, there’s huge amounts of money funding fake news, misinformation and deception on a global scale. That’s just a small part of the battle. 


But just like today, we know UP won, we also know the good side will win against evil. What we have to make sure is we are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb because that is how we get into heaven and the victorious side. To get invited to the Feast, we have to know the Bridegroom, Jesus, and we have to prepare our attire, the finest white linen, which represents the good deeds of God’s people (Rev. 19:8). 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Victory!!!

“On the sea of glass were standing those who had won the victory over the beast and its image and the number that signified its name.” 

Revelation 15:2




St. John the apostle saw many amazing visions that unveiled and hid at the same time God’s truth about the persecution of God’s people, the last judgement and heaven. The revelations, from the Greek “apokalypsis” are terrible but shows that the once-humiliated and despised lamb of God who was slain, will destroy evil once and for all, and bring eternal good to pass. It is our certain hope, that even as we see evil men reigning now and showing off their power, eventually we will see goodness, love and peace victorious over sin and death. 


It is good to meditate on this, that one day, if we persevere here on earth, we will join God’s faithful ones standing on the crystal sea. How do we persevere? By doing God’s will. By being generous, by praying and reading God’s Word every day, by serving God’s people, and walking the path of the pilgrim. Each of us has our own path to heaven, but we are never alone. God walks with us and He will do everything in His power to bring us home. 


St. Paul wrote the Philippians: “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” And even Jesus said, “Those whom You have given Me, I have lost none of them, not one ." (John 18:9) What a wonderful promise from our Savior! 


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Not One Stone

“As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.” Luke 21:6




As we come to the end of the Liturgical Year, the Catholic daily readings are more and more about Jesus’ Second Coming. In this passage, people were admiring Herod’s Temple and remarking on the costly stones that adorned it. The historian Josephus wrote that Herod liked to perpetuate his name by his building projects. He constructed many buildings and temples to other gods but his crowning glory was the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple he built for the Jews was magnificent and many wealthy people donated gold, silver and gems to decorate it. Even the gates were masterpieces covered in gold, silver or Corinthian bronze that shone brightly in the morning sun. 


Since the offerings continued during the 1 1/2 year construction of the main Temple, 1000 priests were employed for construction for none but priests could enter the Holy of Holies. Construction of the massive edifice continued for 80 years. So when Jesus said that one day, not one stone would be left of the impressive structure, Jesus’ followers were naturally aghast. “When will this happen?” they asked. 40 years after, in 70 AD, the Temple would be destroyed by fire in the siege of Jerusalem led by Titus. Josephus wrote that a city of great magnificence was a desert, “For the war had laid all signs of beauty quite waste.”


The poignant lesson we can take from all this is that the mightiest man who builds monuments for himself will become dust. The grandest schemes and the most brilliant plans are temporary and fleeting. A dictator can rant and rave, and put people in prison, but he too will have to face God one day and account for all his actions. 




We too will have to face God and every deed done in darkness will be revealed. “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.” (Luke 8:17) “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecc. 12:14) Advent is a good time to recollect, to prepare for Jesus’ coming into our hearts.





Monday, November 26, 2018

Saving Money in Heaven

“Jesus noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins.” Luke 21:2




Sometimes we do not give help, monetary or otherwise, because we are ashamed to give just a little. The poor widow that Jesus noticed one day in the temple shows us that it is not the amount we give, but what God sees in our hearts. He saw rich people giving out of their surplus wealth, but the poor woman gave out of her need. She gave her whole livelihood. 


God does not need our money, our time, our treasure. When our kids are small, and we give them something they really like, a chocolate bar, or a doughnut, and we ask for a little bit, sometimes they refuse. “This is mine,” they say. It’s funny because they would not have the treat if not for us. We are the source of all the chocolate bars and doughnuts and we can take it away. And if we really wanted, we could buy a whole car of candy for ourselves! We don’t need the candy, but sometimes we ask so our kids can learn to share and be generous and unselfish. 


Isn’t that exactly what happens with God who is the source of everything, every little thing we have? Our breath, our heartbeats, our intelligence, our money? In the Bible, He teaches us to be generous with our time, our money and resources, not because He needs it, but because it’s good for us. There are so many promises in the Bible that come with being generous. They are like blank checks to encash in the bank of heaven. Giving draws us closer to God for where our treasure is, that is where our heart is (Matthew 6:21). If we are faithful in whatever we have, even if it is a little, then God will reward us in heaven (Luke 16:11). Generosity brings God’s blessing, increases our happiness, expands our influence, and brings prosperity (Proverbs 22:9, Proverbs 11:24-25, 2 Corinthians 9:11a and so many more). 




We cannot take any of our money, our time, or any of our resources to heaven with us. If I buy clothes, shoes, a car for myself, I really lose all of it in the economy of heaven. BUT if I help someone in need, buy food for prisoners, give money to missionaries, tithe for God’s work, we do not lose any of that money. Instead we are sending it ahead for our eternity in heaven. Here are Jesus’ own words in Luke 16:9, “Here's the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.” 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

St. Andrew Dūng-Lac

“Here are my two witnesses...then they heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, ‘Come up here’. So they went up to heaven.” 

Revelation 11:4-12




There are many strange happenings in the Book of Revelation. In the 4th chapter John writes about two witnesses who gives testimony, and are slain by the enemy. But they rise from the dead and are called up to heaven. Even today there are many brave martyrs of the faith in China, Africa, and even in the US, who get persecuted for standing up for the Gospel. 


Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew Dūng-Lac and 116 other Vietnamese, Spaniards, and French men and women who were martyred for their Catholic faith from 1820 to 1862 in Vietnam. Thousands more were persecuted, their lands confiscated and their churches destroyed. Beginning in 1832, the Emperor Minh-Mang expelled all foreign missionaries and all the Vietnamese Christians were compelled to renounce their faith by stomping on the crucifix. 


St. Andrew was a Vietnamese Catholic priest. Although he was born to a poor, pagan family, he received a Christian education and was baptized. He was ordained a priest on March 1823. He was a passionate preacher and his congregation loved him. The first time he was imprisoned, his parishioners collected money to buy his freedom. He was arrested again and again, until in December 1839, he along with other Christians were beheaded after severe torture. 


About 130 thousand were martyred for their Catholic faith between 1625 and 1886. The persecution and tortures they experienced included cutting off limbs joint by joint, ripping their bodies apart with red hot tongs, beheading and even being burned alive. 


I can’t help thanking God that we are able to pray, worship Him in our Churches and homes, and even evangelize without fear of being jailed or tortured. But do we have that fervent, burning faith and hope in God? Or are we too complacent and take this gift of faith for granted? If we want God to call us, “Come up here!”, we should  do our part to be His witness and testify to the Gospel. 


Friday, November 23, 2018

The Joy of my Heart

“Your decrees are my inheritance forever; the joy of my heart they are.” Psalm 119:111




Psalm 119 is one of the most fascinating Psalms in the Bible. One can tell that whoever wrote it absolutely delighted in God’s Word and was overcome with how beautiful and precious it was. Unlike other Psalms, the writer did not include his name. He wrote all 176 verses to form an acrostic poem, dividing the verses into 22 stanzas, one for each of the characters in the Hebrew alphabet. The psalm is also known by its first verse beginning with the first character “Aleph”, "Ashrei temimei derech" ("Happy are those whose way is perfect"). 




How wonderful to be as entranced by God’s Word and His promises as the author of Psalm 119. When we read the verses aloud, we can put ourselves in his place. “In the way of Your decrees I rejoice, as much as in all riches! Yes, Your decrees are my delight; they are my counselors! The law of Your mouth is to me more precious than thousands of gold and silver pieces. How sweet to my palate are Your promises, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” 




Like the author, we can set our heart steadfastly on God’s Words and promises. When we meditate on them, we can be sure that our eyes will be turned away from worthless things, and His Word will light our path. 





Thursday, November 22, 2018

He Began to Cry

“...He began to cry.” Luke 19:41




When Jesus drew near to Jerusalem, He began to cry. Seeing a grown man cry, it is heartbreaking. Sometimes my father cries when he thinks of my mom who passed away in February 2014. I can’t bear to see my him cry. He never cried when I was young, but now that he is 92, he cries about the past. 


Jesus cried because of what he saw in Jerusalem’s future. He lamented, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace- but now it is too late, peace is hidden from your eyes...because you did not recognize the time of your visitation. You have rejected the opportunity God offered you.” 


How about us? Perhaps there are things we regret about our past. Maybe there are unresolved issues, people we have not forgiven or reconciled with. Let us not carry our burdens into the future. Let us take the opportunities God offers us today to be free, unencumbered, victorious. God shows us the way of peace, but we are sometimes too proud to see it. 


Lord, help me to choose Your way, the way of peace and love, compassion and understanding. May we have the grace to recognize and be grateful for all the opportunities You give us each day to be a blessing to others. Show us the way.