Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Light Your Lamps!

“Gird your loins and light your lamps...Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.” Luke 12:35-37



Very little is required of many of us I think. We are not part of a persecuted church, we are free to worship, and fellowship, even if we do it virtually at present.

In the book I am reading, one man in a Communist country urged: “Don’t ever give up in freedom what we would never have given up in persecution! That is our witness to the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!” After Nik Ripken left his mission of feeding the hungry in Somalia, he felt very frustrated that he was not able to bring Christ there even after so many years. He then visited Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe to find out how the Christians there kept their faith strong after decades of communist oppression. In his book, The Insanity of God, Nik recounts many amazing stories the believers told him. “Why don’t you write this in a book?” he asked in awe. One man took him to the window to see the miracle of the sunrise. “Do you ever bring your son to see the sunrise? Persecution happens all the time.”

One man, Dmitri, said he had been raised in a believing family and his parents had taken him to church as a child. But over the decades, Communism destroyed most of the churches and many pastors were either imprisoned or executed. One day he told his wife that he would like to teach his young boys about Christ even if he had no religious training. With his wife’s eager consent, Dmitri started reading from their old Bible once a week, and explaining the stories, and praying. Since nothing can be hidden for long in small villages, with the houses so close together, and windows open, their neighbors asked to join in. A small group gathered, and more and more came, eager to discuss the Bible and sing and pray. The authorities noticed and threatened Dmitri again and again, but the people kept coming, hungry for the word of God. 

When the group grew to one hundred fifty people, Dmitri was forcibly brought to jail. There, he was the only believer among fifteen hundred hardened criminals. How did he survive seventeen years in jail with his faith intact? Every morning Dmitri would rise at dawn, face the East, and sing what he called a heart song to God. The second discipline was that whenever he found a piece of paper he would fill it with the word of God, and place it high up on a column in his room as an offering to God. He would get beaten for it, but he continued to do it. 

One day after 17 long years, after being tortured, Dmitri was dragged from his cell. The fifteen hundred criminals who used to taunt him when he sang, simultaneously faced the East, raised their arms, and began to sing the heart song that they heard Dmitri sing to Jesus every morning. The jailers immediately released their hold on Dmitri and demanded, “Who are you?” He responded: “I am a son of the Living God, and Jesus is His name!” Soon after that, Dmitri was released and was able to return to his family. 

“I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God.” That is what Jesus says in Luke 12:8. Let us continue to acknowledge Jesus as our Savior in good times and hard times! 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Treasure in Heaven

“Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.” Luke 12:21




God's gracious word can enlarge you, build you up, and give you an inheritance with all those set apart for Himself. Sometimes I rush through reading the Bible because I have read it all before several times. But when I slow down, I see gems like this verse: 


“I commend you now to the Lord, and to that gracious WORD of His which can enlarge you…” Saint Paul, Acts 20:32


When I am able to savor God's Word, I see it as a treasure room full of different finely set jewels, intricate gold pieces and the finest pearls. Just like that room in National Treasure but only bigger, limitless!


Many people through the ages have sought after gold, pearls, and jewels. Some have gone down deep into the sea to salvage pirate's treasure. Kings hoarded gems, explorers bravely set out to find cities of gold, pioneers spent years prospecting the elusive metal. Legends have grown around famous pearls. One particular pearl, the La Peregrina, has an illustrious 500 year history! After being found by a slave in Africa in the 1500s, and worn by Spanish queens and English nobility, it eventually ended up in Elizabeth Taylor's extensive jewelry collection. Once, she recounts in her book, she was so scared because she lost it. It was eventually found in the mouth of one of her puppies! The most perfect pearl in the world being chewed by a puppy!!


 One day, all these worldly treasures will be worth precisely that- nothing! Years and years of prospecting something that is worth nothing! So much time, money and effort spent searching for some elusive treasure under the sea worth nothing! 


What do I spent my time, effort and money on? Does it have eternal value or will it be eventually worth nothing? Jesus said we should store up for ourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. (Matthew 6:20-21) Let us dig in the vast treasure of God's Word and let it enlarge us, build us up and give us an inheritance worth far more than all the earthly treasures throughout the ages!



Sunday, October 18, 2020

Give to God

"Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." Matthew 22:21




Here in this story, the Pharisees and Herodians were trying to trip Jesus up again. They ask him if they should pay taxes. Sometimes we are tempted not to pay the correct taxes because of what the government is doing with it. It was the same during Jesus' time. Even worse, the Jews were a dominated people, forced to pay debilitating taxes to feed Roman citizens. 


"Whose head is this and whose inscription?" Jesus asks about the coin he requested in answer to their question. 


The coin that Jesus asked them to bring Him had the image of a goddess on one side and the image of Augustus Caesar on the reverse. It also had another element abhorrent to the Jews: an inscription "CAESAR DIVI F." which signified that Caesar was God and to be worshipped. 


"Give to Caesar what is Caesar's..." He answers them. " And give to God what is God's." What a brilliant answer! In one short lesson, Jesus tells us succinctly that as we are all in the image of God, WE should give ourselves to God! We belong to Him and we are His!


The Jews knew very well that in first chapter of the Torah, it taught that God made Adam, "btzelem elohim," in the Image of God. In effect, Jesus was telling them, "Give your whole self to the One Who has imprinted Divinity upon you!" 


Thank You Lord for we are precious in Your eyes. We belong to You, You made us for Yourself. You created us for a purpose and in love. May we always treat others with the dignity and love we all deserve for we all brothers and sisters of the same Father. 


Saturday, October 17, 2020

What is Man?

"What is man that You should be mindful of him?" Hebrews 2:5




According to the United Nations the current world population is estimated at 7.8 billion as of October 2020 with the Philippines contributing 109,582,078 people to that number. 


How can we say then that God minds each one of us, loves each one as if there is only one of us to love? Does He really? 


Beth Moore, a preacher, likes to tell the story about when she was in a crowded airport hall and a stewardess came in, pushing a man in a wheelchair. His hair was long and scraggly, and he was just a sight that everyone followed their progress. Beth heard God say that He wanted her to brush his hair. She was quite adamant at first and didn't want to obey, but God was persistent. So eventually she went over and asked the man in a whisper if she could have the honor of brushing his hair. He couldn't hear very well so she had to repeat her question several times until the whole hall could hear, and he said yes. She had to find his hair brush in his bag because she didn't have one. It took some time before all the tangles of his matted hair became smooth. Then she got up, kneeled down in front of him, saw his tears, and asked, "Sir, do you know Jesus?”


"Yes I do. My bride said I would have to know Jesus before she'd marry me so I read the Bible and I got to know Jesus. But I've been in the hospital a long time and now I'm going home to my bride, and I thought that I must look a terrible mess and was feeling sad because I couldn't brush my hair by myself. Thank you so much. Thank you." By this time a lot of people, including the stewardess had tears running down their faces. 


Yes, God cares. He cares about what we care about. It's mind boggling to think that God would care about one man in 7.8 billion people, that He sent Beth to untangle his hair so he would feel he was presentable to see his bride. 


Lord, I know You care about me. I don't want to take for granted all the times You take care of me!  

Friday, October 16, 2020

God is Our Partner

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more.” Luke 12:4




In the book “The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected”, Nik Ripken shares a lot of horror stories about the time he was in Somalia helping distribute food in a war torn country. One time his Somali chief of staff and right hand man, Omar Aziz, came into his office weeping. When he had calmed down enough to speak, he recounted that he was walking down a street when he noticed a malnourished woman sitting against a tree nursing a baby. He greeted her and she smiled back. When he returned the same way after finishing his errand, the woman and her baby were still there. This time the baby was squirming and whimpering, but the woman was not moving. In the brief time since he had passed, the young mother had died. 


He took the child, and was able to find some people who gave the woman a proper burial. It took him some time before he found a nursing mother whose child had just died to take care of the baby. But the experience was just too much for this man who had seen so much heartache already. “My poor country! What is going to become of us?”


Today, Somalia is recovering from a brutal two-decade civil war that has damaged almost every sector of the country. There are many heartbreaking stories about how the Somalis have been taken advantage of, brutalized, and used as pawns by warring clans. Around 500,000 people have died since the start of the devastating famine and civil war in Somalia. 


Covid 19 has killed more than one million people according to the official global death toll, but researchers say that figure is way below the real count. 


So much death. So much pain. But in God’s eyes, death is not a thing to be feared. A murderer, a virus, can only kill the body. It does not kill the forever part of us, our soul. That is why it is important to tend our souls. God is our partner in taking care of our souls. As St. Teresa of Avila wrote in the book about her life, “Beginners must realize that in order to give delight to the Lord they are starting to cultivate a garden on very barren soil, full of abominable weeds. His Majesty pulls up the weeds and plants good seed. Now let us keep in mind that all of this is already done by the time a soul is determined to practice prayer and has begun to make use of it. And with the help of God we must strive like good gardeners to get these plants to grow and take pains to water them so that they don’t wither but come to bud and flower and give forth a most pleasant fragrance to provide refreshment for this Lord of ours. Then He will often come to take delight in this garden and find His joy among these virtues.”


Thursday, October 15, 2020

Wake Up Rejoicing!

 “Sing to the Lord a new song...” Psalm 98:1




I woke up rejoicing because after several weeks of experiencing pains in my chest, I am thanking God there has been no pain for the third day now. We take so many things for granted. I remember when I used to have lots of wounds in my mouth and I could not eat, or talk or sing comfortably for years because of Pemphigus Vulgaris. When I did not have sores, it was such a blessing to be able to do ordinary things that almost everybody does without stressing about. Then there was the time I had to wear compression stockings every single day! So hot and itchy, and uncomfortable, and I had to change my whole wardrobe to either hide it, or wear black ones that looked like leggings. That was because of my Deep Vein Thrombosis. When my toes turned blue and my doctor said, “Congratulations! You don’t have to wear them anymore!”, I was absolutely ecstatic! 


I don’t want to take blessings for granted! I don’t want to breathe without thanking God! To walk, to see, to sleep well at night, to be with my family safe and sound.... But unfortunately I do take almost everything God gives me without thought of its value! 


In these abnormal days, after several months of staying home, or in the case of those who cannot work from home, having to wear a mask and face shield, and getting paranoid when people come near, it makes us reflect on our lives. How fragile it is! 


The Jews for most of their history have been exiled, persecuted, and have suffered greatly. But in spite of all the pressures of living in foreign lands, they have managed to maintain their language, culture, identity and spirit. When the temple was destroyed and Jerusalem pillaged, the focus of their worship transferred from the temple to their faith communities. That was when the Torah was rediscovered and read afresh.


I can say I also live in exile, in a foreign land. I am, after all, a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20). And like the Jews, with their songs of lamentation, I complain about this strange land I live in. The world as I know it is changing too fast, and I can't say it's for the better! Politicians lie with audacity and have no compunction to steal from the hungry and the homeless. There are apps and sites that promote adultery, and pornography, and people who are against abortion are insulted. Women jiggle and sing on TV in next to nothing! No, I do not feel like I belong!


Yet I can still sing new songs to the Lord! For His mercies are new every morning! And I know in every dark shadow, there is a light shining...even in the remotest region of the world! I just need to open my eyes to what God is doing. He keeps His promises, and I wait in faith, and journey with all the other pilgrims, to my promised land!


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Way of the Wicked

“For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” Psalm 1:6




The way of the wicked will perish, but while the wicked roam they make hell on earth. I am reading a missionary’s account of his trips to Somalia in 1992 when he represented many Christian relief organizations to see what they could do to help the people. The book is entitled, “The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected” by Nik Ripken. 


Somaliland was in the grip of a terrible drought, and caught in a brutal miserable civil war. Nik’s first stop was Hargeisa. For the seventy thousand people who still ‘lived’ there, only seven houses had roofs still covering it. All the rest were just wandering hopelessly through their devastated city with no destination. On top of that there were thousands and thousands of land mines scattered around the city.


Nik was informed by his contacts that in Somali there was “ninety percent unemployment, eighty-five percent starvation or severe malnutrition rate, more than three hundred thousand citizens starved to death over the preceding six months, as many as three thousand starvation deaths a day.”


When Nik went outside of Hargeisa, he just saw more despair and signs of violent and inhumane cruelty. Armed raiders destroyed the old fashioned hand pumps and permanently sealed off the wells by filling it with rocks and sand. All along the way there were rotting carcasses of camels, goats, and even people. The smell was horrific. In the little villages they visited, emaciated mothers were begging that they take their children. In others, all they found were stick thin dead bodies. 


Relief agencies were hesitant to help because over 80% of the relief goods were stolen and never reached the hungry. 


Nik asked why the callousness, and one of his staff answered with a Somali saying he had heard all of his life: “Somalia against the world; I and my clan against Somalia; I and my family against my clan; I and my brother against my family; and I against my brother.” This is the essence of evil: selfishness. 


I pray that I will root out any selfishness within me. But I cannot do it on my own. Only by God’s spirit will we be saved.


“Brothers and sisters: If you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.” Galatians 5:18-25

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Your Mercy

“Let your mercy come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise.” Psalm 119:41




I have been listening to St. Teresa of Avila’s autobiography. She says a lot about being wicked, and sinning against God, but does not say what it is she has done. Luigi said that when you are close To God, you are more aware of your sins. In her autobiography St. Teresa wrote that she was very fond of St. Augustine...for he was a sinner too.’


What impressed me is that she spent a lot of her time talking to God. Although she is the total opposite of Brother Lawrence, who was a simple man, unpolished and awkward, they both ‘practiced the presence of God’. In contrast, St. Teresa was sophisticated, her father was one of the richest men in Avila, and when she was young, she was very concerned about her looks, make up, and even perfume. 


Much to the disappointment of her father, she entered the religious life at the age of 20. She was sick for a long time, staying in bed for almost a year. What pained her about her sickness was she could not pray all alone as there was always someone watching out for her. 


Eventually, she found the laxity of her Order disturbed her. There were too many visitors of high rank, and unsubstantial conversations that intruded on the practice of contemplation and solitude. She then founded a ‘reformed’ Carmelite convent with stricter monastic regulations which included flagellation! She was a reformer and during the last three years of her life, she founded several convents and even men’s monasteries. 


What transformed this frivolous young woman interested in romance novels into one who only lived to serve God with her whole heart, soul and body? We can say it was the mercy and grace of God. 


St. Teresa de Avila wrote: “Trust God you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and everyone of us.” 


Monday, October 12, 2020

The Sign of Jonah

“While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, ‘This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah...’” Luke 11:29




We are always looking for signs, a red rose, a white rose, whatever. I remember when my mom used to call a particular book of meditations, the magic book, because when she would cut it, the words on that page gave her an answer that was particularly meaningful for her. 


In this passage from the book of Luke, Jesus told the crowd listening to Him that, “This is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah...” So many people followed Jesus around, jostled to listen to Him, because He was a miracle worker, He healed the sick, He raised the dead, He multiplied bread. If Jesus came today, crowds would follow Him as well. And He would say the same thing, “This generation is an evil generation.” Not much has changed. I am still selfish, seeking my own good, instead of looking after the needs of my neighbors. I may try to be pious but do I see things the way the Lord wants me to? Am I where the Lord wants me to be? 


Jesus already gave us the ultimate sign, the sign of Jonah. Of course the crowds during Jesus’ time would never have gotten the allusion, but we have the advantage of knowing what happened after Jesus was crucified. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days, Jesus stayed in the darkness of His tomb for three days. And just as He prophesied, He rose again to save us from our selfishness, and sin, and death to give us new life. 


Early this morning, I received word that a sweet friend of mine, a sister in Christ, passed away after a hard battle with cancer. Truly it is sad and difficult to accept that God did not heal her after we pleaded and asked for His mercy. May the young family she left behind be consoled by the reality that she is with the resurrected Lord who loves her best. We ask for signs but the sign of Jonah is our best and brightest hope for a new dawn! 



Sunday, October 11, 2020

Wedding Feast

“My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?” Matthew 22:12




We all enjoy weddings and when I get invited to a wedding, I usually plan way in advance what I will wear. Once I chose to wear a dull gold embroidered outfit made by a Japanese designer which I bought from the ukay-ukay. I thought that was a fitting wedding attire because I loved it! My sister however told me that no, on the contrary, it was not the right thing to wear for a semi-formal wedding because it was short! I was dismayed thinking the bride may have thought the same! 


In the parable Jesus told the chief priests and elders, He said that the kingdom of heaven is like a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. The invited guests did not come so he instructed his servants, “The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.”


The servants did so and the hall was filled. But when the king came to meet the guests, he saw one man not in a wedding garment and he was thrown out. Isn’t that so unfair? 


One can ask, what does the King expect? His guests were invited off the street!!! It's amazing that there were not more people unfit to attend a wedding! But you see, it was a Middle Eastern custom for the King to provide the garments for his guests. They had only to put it on.


In Genesis, after Adam and Eve sinned and they discovered that they were naked, they covered themselves with fig leaves. God rejected this covering made by their own hands in the same way that God would reject anything we did to "clothe" ourselves. Instead in Genesis 3:21, God made a covering for Adam and Eve out of the skin of an animal. Perhaps that animal was a lamb, a spotless perfect lamb. God killed the lamb and took its skin to cover the sin, shame and guilt of Adam and Eve. In Romans 13:14, Saint Paul admonishes us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, to clothe ourselves with Jesus. All of our righteousness, our good deeds are as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6). Only putting on the righteousness of Christ will do if we want to have a place in the Wedding Feast of the King!




Saturday, October 10, 2020

Learn the Heart of God

While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Luke 11:27-28



Jesus’ mother exemplifies one who hears the word of God and observes it! She it is who proclaimed, “I am the handmaiden of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38) I like reading stories and words of the saints, men and women of clay, who became enamored of God and filled with enthusiasm to read His word and let it dwell in their hearts. May we be one of those who wake up in the morning to hear what God has to say to us, and to be eager to try again to follow Him more nearly. 

Saint Teresa of Avila was canonized in 1622 AD and was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970. In The Book of Her Life, an autobiography, she wrote that Truth was telling her: “...for all the harm that comes to the world comes from its not knowing the truths of Scripture in clarity and truth; not one iota of Scripture will fall short... Alas, daughter, how few there are who truthfully love Me! For if they loved Me, I would reveal to them my secrets.” 

Indeed, in the Bible lies available for us all the most wonderful secrets of God! How sad it is when a person refuses to read what God has given us so lovingly, what He has prepared and planned for through the ages! St. John Chrysostom, another Doctor of the Church emphasized, “To become adult Christians you must learn familiarity with the scriptures.” There are definitely no shortcuts. In one of his homilies St. John explained, “But what is the answer to these charges? ‘I am not’, you will say, ‘one of the monks, but have a wife and children, and the care of a household.’ This is what has ruined everything your thinking that the reading of scripture is for monks only, when you need it more than they do. Those who are placed in the world, and who receive wounds every day have the most need of medicine. So, far worse even than not reading the scriptures is the idea that they are superfluous. Such things were invented by the devil.” In Proverbs 4:20-22, we read, “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life into those that find them and MEDICINE to all their flesh.” 

Pope St. Gregory implored, “Study them, I beg you, and meditate daily on the words of your Creator. Learn the heart of God in the words of God, that you may sigh more eagerly for things eternal, that your soul may be kindled with greater longings for heavenly joys.”

And then there are what Bishop St. Isidore wrote in the Office of Readings: “If a man wants to be always in God’s company, he must pray regularly and read regularly. When we pray, we talk to God; when we read, God talks to us.” So important was the Bible to St. Bonaventure, that he composed the “Biblia Pauperum”, which means Bible of the poor. In his day, most people could not read or write, so he made a collection of pictures. His Biblia showed the important events of the Old Testament paralleling scenes in the New Testament, how the Old prefigured and was fulfilled in the life and teachings of Jesus. 

Today, we have no excuse. All sorts of Bibles are available for us to read and study, all versions, small, with big letters, huge margins to write on or draw on, etc. Let us read His Word, listen to videos about it, learn, study, meditate, and be blessed. 

Friday, October 09, 2020

Take Heart

‘I shall return to my home from which I came.’ Luke 11:24




“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.” Jesus explained this to a crowd who accused Him of driving out demons using the power of the devil. He stated that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.


Why does Jesus talk about an empty house being occupied by an evil force? It should not be left vacant to be used as the devil’s playground. We have to fill it with all that is of God. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)


I was listening to the story of St. Therese and her family. St. Therese, her father and her mother, Zelie and Louis Martin, were all declared Saints by the Catholic Church. When they were younger, both Zelie and Louis sought unsuccessfully to enter religious life. They eventually met and married and within fifteen years, Zelie bore nine children. Within three years, four of their children died, but their faith sustained them through these tragedies. They had five surviving daughters, and the youngest was named Marie-Francoise-Therese. A century later people would know her as St. Therese, the "Little Flower." All five daughters entered religious life. 


Therese was rather spoiled and would exhibit temper tantrums when she was young. Before she was fifteen years of age, she desired to enter the Lisieux Carmel where her sisters were. Her father was so supportive, he helped her get an audience with the Bishop, and then eventually the Pope. She eventually got her wish on April 9, 1888. She was 15 years and three months old. 


Therese wrote in her journal, “It is impossible for me to grow up, so I must bear with myself such as I am with all my imperfections. But I want to seek out a means of going to heaven by a little way, a way that is very straight, very short and totally new." Like all of us, Therese was frequently annoyed with little things, a nun who made clacking noises with her false teeth, a sister who splashed dirty laundry water on her face, the cold diet, etc. She found ways to offer this all as a prayer to Jesus. That was her “little way”. 


We may find it amusing that Therese, the great mystic and Doctor of the Church, frequently fell asleep during the two hours of prayer and four and a half hours of liturgy. This is what we can read in The Story of a Soul:


“Really, I am far from being a saint, and what I have just said is proof of this; instead of rejoicing, for example, at my aridity, I should attribute it to my little fervor and lack of fidelity; I should be desolate for having slept (for seven years) during my hours of prayer and my thanksgivings after Holy Communion; well, I am not desolate. I remember that little children are as pleasing to their parents when they are asleep as well as when they are wide awake; I remember, too, that when they perform operations, doctors put their patients to sleep. Finally, I remember that: "The Lord knows our weakness, that he is mindful that we are but dust and ashes."


Indeed we can take heart in these words. As long as we are preoccupied with thoughts of God, then we can be assured God will take care of the rest.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Ask

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Luke 11:9




After the disciples asked the Lord to teach them to pray, He gave them the example of the Lord’s Prayer. He then asked them to imagine that they went to a friend at midnight to borrow three loaves of bread to feed a friend who arrived from a long journey. The one inside responds, “Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ Jesus assures, “Even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.”


From this passage, we learn that we can keep knocking on our Father’s door, and not give up. “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”


We may think, we have been praying and knocking for months now that God save us from this pandemic. We are now in the top 20 countries in the world with the most cases of COVID-19. There are 35,414,071 who have gotten this virus, and 1,043,045 who have died. What is God doing? Is He turning a deaf ear to our cries? But God has not promised that we will have it easy in this world. Jesus Himself said in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation and trouble and hardship. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” 


The most important thing for God is we will join His family, and get to heaven someday. God gave us a beautiful world and gave us His laws in order to take care of it, but man wanted to do his own thing, and make his own way. Man rejected God’s ways. We chose abortion because we want to have freedom from the responsibility of our actions. We chose to be governed by men with no conscience instead of righteous men. We did not take care of our environment and instead put fake sand to prettify a dirty beach. 


We will find that God has used the mess we have made of things, the destruction we have caused to families, to our church, our country, to bring us closer to Him. He is the grand weaver, and although now, we see an ugly tapestry, one day we will see the beautiful design He has made using the mismatched colors and tangled threads our hands have given Him. 


“Do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)


Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Lord, Teach Us to Pray

“Lord, teach us to pray...” Luke 11:1




Jesus taught the disciples how to pray. The first Christians were taught this “secret prayer” after their baptism. Today, we can pray this anywhere, and we , unfortunately, take the words for granted. 


Our Father, Abba, You are my father, but not only my father, but father of all You have created in love. You want us to trust in You, to ask You for guidance, You are ever ready to succor and protect us. Help us to see our brothers and sisters with Your eyes, with kindness and forbearance. There are so many who are lost, Lord, and I know You want us to do what we can to bring them to know You, to bring them into Your fold. 


Our Father, thank You for excluding no one. We are all Your children, even those who reject You again and again. Even when we sin. You still continue to bless us with Your rain, sunshine, oxygen, healing. Thank You for Your gifts of being able to talk, walk, breathe, and use our minds. May we be perfect as You are perfect, may we “hit the mark”, and become exactly as You want us to be. May we love You and love our neighbors as You have taught. Until the day You bring us home to You, ABBA Father, amen.


Tuesday, October 06, 2020

One Thing

"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her." Luke 10:41-42




What is the ONE THING? 


I guess we can come up with different answers, but I think it is having a relationship with Jesus. That is how to be a Mary in a Martha world. Martha's world is full of deadlines, an avalanche of email, a never ending series of to-dos and want-to-dos. The world of today is maddeningly kinetic, a breeding ground of distraction, and it's hard to find the time to nurture our most important relationship. 


Commandment number ONE is to love The Lord with all our heart, soul and strength, with everything in us! That's the ONE thing, that's number ONE! 


Lord, I want that one thing! Help me to slow down and savor Your love for me! Help me to sit at Your feet and learn from You!


Stormie Omartian said, "If we don't deliberately build our lives around these "garden walks" with the Lord, the world will rapidly and relentlessly fill our hours with other commitments." I attended a prayer meeting this weekend and the speaker said that just as we should only go out of our homes for essential things, we should also fill our lives with essential matters. What are the things we do that have eternal consequences? Let us put more time into those things than wasting time on non-essentials. 

Monday, October 05, 2020

Who is my Neighbor?


"Who is my neighbor?" Luke 10:29




There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” The scholar answered, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” But he had a further question which we all need to ask ourself, he asked, “And who is my neighbor?” And Jesus told him the parable of the Good Samaritan. 


The movie Elysium offers us a look at the year 2154, where the very wealthy live on a man-made very comfortable space habitat where any sickness can be healed by just entering into a Med-bay. The rest still inhabit a ruined and ravaged over populated earth. We may ask how can people live happily knowing there are others who live in poverty and despair? But that is exactly what is happening all around us. 


Just outside our gated subdivision, across the street, people live in shanties, get flooded often, have problems with water and electricity. Do I do anything about it? No, I have never set foot inside the area. I prefer to give money to foundations, or organizations who do the hard job of procuring the food, and distributing it. 


But Mother Teresa was not like that. Yesterday, I was listening to an interview she gave in Ireland a long time ago. She really got her hands “dirty”, one person at a time. She was able to wash the wounds oozing with pus because that person was Jesus. She was able to touch lepers because those poor souls were Jesus in disguise. She and her thousands of soldier nuns were able to hold the hands of the dying because they saw beyond the physical ravages of diseased bodies. 


Mother Teresa need not have asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” She knew. 




Sunday, October 04, 2020

Limitless Love of God

“Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.” Matthew 21:33




The man in Jesus’ story does not seem to be a wise businessman at all. He spends a lot of money planting a vineyard, building the wall around to protect it, providing a winepress, a  vat, and a lookout tower. Then he leases his property to tenant farmers and goes far away on a journey. 


At harvest time, he sends a servant to  the vineyard to collect his portion of the fruit. The tenants beat the servant and send him away empty. Every time the owner sends someone, the vine-growers either harm the servant or kill him. Finally, the man sends his beloved son thinking the tenant farmers will respect his only son. Alas! The farmers had other plans, and wanted the inheritance of the land for themselves! They killed the son and threw his body outside the vineyard. 


No, he is not a wise businessman at all! This is a story of the limitless love of God. He provides everything we need for us to bear abundant fruit. Most of the time we think what we have is ours, the fruit is ours, the time we have on this earth is ours. We claim the gifts without thanking the giver, without giving back to Him what is His. We accumulate and accumulate without asking the “landlord” what He wants us to do with His property, His vineyard, with the life He has loaned to us. 


How amazing is our God, that He showers us with gifts, and leaves us to multiply and use them! We are mere stewards of His property. He gives generously at first, and waits patiently for us to give Him good fruit. The more we give Him, the more generous He is with us! Woe to those who do not realize this! Like the tenants in the story, they too will be destroyed by their own greed and blindness! 


Saturday, October 03, 2020

Blessed

 "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” Luke 10:23-24




I always marvel at how much knowledge, entertainment and news are at our fingertips if we have a computer or a phone with an internet connection. The first computers were huge, some occupying 1,800 square feet, consisted of about 750,000 parts, with vacuum tubes that weighed almost 50 tons. The first hard disk drive was the size of a cupboard! And now, my phone has more power than those monster computers powered by steam!!!


Before, news had to carried by people on horseback. Now, a glance at my twitter feed can bring me news faster than CNN! What an amazing world we have!


But are we just as amazed at how awesome it is, that the Messiah that "kings and prophets" longed and waited for, is here with us today? That we can actually have a relationship with Him? We can talk to Him. We can read His words, we can know His story. 


Is it not that we often take for granted that we can actually worship and fellowship with other believers without fear of getting caught, stoned, burned at the stake, or carted off to be killed by animals in the middle of an arena like the Hunger Games? The Jews are still waiting for their Messiah. 


Have we "found" Him for ourselves?

Friday, October 02, 2020

Angel of God, My Guardian Dear

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” Matthew 18:10




Today is the Feast of the Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels. It may seem old fashioned to believe in benevolent beings taking care of us but the scriptural foundation is what Jesus said in Matthew 18:10, that each one of us has an angel. The pillars of the early Church believed in angels. St. Basil of Caesarea, a fourth century theologian wrote, “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him or her to life”. 


In his Angelus address on Oct. 2, 2011, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI stated, “the Lord is ever close and active in humanity’s history and accompanies us with the unique presence of His Angels...From the beginning until the hour of death, human life is surrounded by their constant protection”. We commemorate this feast because we desire to celebrate God’s wonderful and faithful protection and providence. Many times we are unaware of our angels’ intervention, but there are many stories about how someone is saved by one who cannot be traced. 


I remember one story that came out in the news about a serious car accident involving a young girl. She could not be extracted from the wreck at first until a man who was dressed as a priest appeared and prayed over her and told the crew afterwards that they could now extricate her. They were able to, but when they looked for the man, he was nowhere to be found. He also did not appear in any of the pictures although many people saw him. The news agencies tried to trace him, calling up parishes, but they were unsuccessful.


When my nephew was a toddler, he liked watching the movie, “Angels in the Outfield”. One day when my sister and him were in the bedroom, he suddenly looked up, and asked shyly, “Who’s that?” When my sister directed her gaze to where he was looking, there was no one. “Who do you see?” “Big man,” he answered. My sister got frightened and hurriedly ushered him out. But she believed it was a visitation from an angel. 


While I was having my open heart surgery, my brother in law was praying for me. God gave him a vision of several angels surrounding my operating table. Even today, just like in Old Testament times, God sends His angels to take care of us. In the Book of Tobit, Angel Raphael introduced himself, “I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand and serve before the Glory of the Lord” (Tobit 12:15). He explained to Tobit, “When you, Tobit, and Sarah prayed, it was I who presented the record of your prayer before the Glory of the Lord” (Tobit 12:12) and “God sent me to heal you and your daughter-in-law Sarah” (Tobit 12:14).


Father, thank You that You command Your angels to guard us in all our ways. (Psalm 91:11)

Thursday, October 01, 2020

God’s Master Plan

“Jesus appointed seventy-two other disciples whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit.” Luke 10:1




The New Testament is concealed in the Old, and the Old is revealed and fulfilled in the New. This is what St. Augustine said back in his time and his sermons and the sermons and writings of other Church Fathers were all about showing the parallels between the Old and the New. When I read this passage about Jesus appointing seventy-two disciples to go out on mission, I thought immediately of the seventy God asked Moses to choose in the Book of Numbers. “Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them...Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on Moses and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied.” (11:16,25) But how about the two extra men? 


Back to the Old Testament I went and found the answer in the next verse, “Two men remained in the camp...and the spirit rested on them...and so they prophesied in the camp.” (11:26) 


Jesus is the new Moses. Just like Moses who was able to save his people from their slavery in Egypt, Jesus saves us from oppression to sin. But first Jesus as a baby had to be saved from the death threat of Herod the Great, King of Judea, who ordered the massacre of all the innocent baby boys two years old and below. (Matthew 2:16) Joseph and Mary fled with Jesus to Egypt. Isn’t this similar to what happened to Moses as a baby? The Pharaoh ordered that all the first-born male babies of the Hebrews to be killed. Moses was saved because, Jochebed, his mother, placed him in a reed basket and left him to float on the river where Pharaoh’s daughter bathed. (Exodus 2:1-10)


After that, for both Jesus and Moses, there is a long period of silence about their growing up years, with both of them having a secret identity. Moses grew up as a Prince Egypt, while actually being a son of a Hebrew slave. Jesus was and is the Son of God, and he grew up as a carpenter’s son. Moses became a shepherd and Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 20:1-17), and Jesus gave the new commandments, the Beatitudes, to the crowd who followed Him up the mountain (Matthew 5). Both Jesus and Moses spent 40 days fasting (Exodus 34:28, Matthew 4:2). Both of them performed many signs and miracles, and both of them are great mediators between God and man. 


All this and many more parallels between the Old and New Testaments show that God had a Master Plan to save His people. Thank You Lord that You are patient, loving, faithful, and true to Your Word. I am confident that during this challenging time of this worldwide pandemic, You are working zealously behind the scenes, redeeming, renewing, reviving Your people!