Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Final Hour!

" is the final hour..." 1 John 2:18

The last day of the year is not what John the Apostle meant in this verse, but it is good to look back at our year nonetheless. Where did we grow and improve? In what ways do we need to learn and study so we do better? I decided to do a "dream board", or what some would call a goal keeper, goal chart, life map, vision board, etc. I placed it in my planner so I would get to see it every day. 

If we want to accomplish more in the coming year, it's best to make some goals. But we have to always consider what God wants us to do. Planning without God in mind is foolhardy.  As it says in one of my favorite verses, Psalm 127:1,
“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.”
Let's not waste our time and sweat on goals and plans that we did not submit for God's approval first! After all, He knows us better than we know ourselves! 

I think of Bo Sanchez, who reads his life mission, his list of dreams, and his annual goals every single morning. 
When Bo was very young, he had a very detailed list of his goals and plans. He made a “Dream Board”.  He wanted to build a home for the poorest of the poor.  He imagined a large plot of land with many homes. He even saw a rice field, fishpond and coconut trees.

After several years, Anawim, a place specially for abandoned elderly people, is now a reality in Montalban, complete with the rice field, fishpond and coconut trees he envisioned. 

Lord, help me discover what are Your dreams and plans for me. You gave me so many gifts and talents, and I know You want me to use them all. May I work with You and see how You want me to bloom and grow in Your garden! 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Mission: Impossible!

"Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you." Matthew 2:13

When the magi, the wise men, departed, an angel appeared to Joseph again in a dream, to give him instructions. He was told to leave and go to Egypt, to stay there and await further instructions. I'm thinking the original Mission: Impossible and Jim Phelps listening to a recording that would self destruct. In a way, Joseph is like Jim Phelps. They were both men of action, men of service and men of unwavering loyalty. They were given instructions by someone they trusted and they followed without question. 

We too have a mission given by God.  It may not be as impossible as Joseph and Mary's was, not as mind boggling, nor world changing, but it is a mission uniquely ours. Our mission, "should we decide to accept it" is fit for our talents and resources, and the milieu we find ourselves in. We were, just as Queen Esther was, "made for such a time as this" (Esther 4:14). 

Lord, may I be excited about what You want me to do, where I am with what I have. Like the boy with his meager hoard of loaves and fishes, I place what I have in my hands, and know You can multiply it. Help me to trust You, and do my mission excellently! 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

My Eyes Have Seen!

"My eyes have seen your saving deed..." Luke 2:30

What an amazing man Simeon is! He had been waiting a long time for the promised Messiah, the consolation of Israel, a land battered and torn by many upheavals and foreign domination. What did Simeon see when he went to the temple, inspired by the same Spirit who revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord's anointed? He saw a mere baby, 40 days old, carried by His mother. Simeon got excited nonetheless! "I can die now! I have seen Your promise with my eyes!" He was content. 

Simeon had been studying God's Word, and was a just and pious man. His faith did not waver in the many, long years he had to wait. Sometimes we too have to wait many, long years for God's answer. What is the longing in our hearts? Sometimes we get too impatient and do not wait for Him. It is said that God works slowly but surely. After all, a thousand years in our reckoning is just like a day passing to God (Psalm 90:4). In these days of fast foods and even quicker answers on Google, it will profit us much to take time, slow down, and see God's saving deed as Simeon did. 

Lord, may I quiet my heart and mind, and hear Your still, small voice. You cannot wait to speak to me. You always make time for me. Help me every day to make time for You. May I be as excited as Simeon to see You! 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

They are No More!

"...since they are no more." Matthew 2:18

Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the baby boys, two years old or younger, torn violently from their mothers' arms and massacred upon the orders of Herod. King Herod, history tells us, was an extremely cruel man who murdered 3 of his sons and mother-in-law. Even with all that, some historians claim that Herod's legacy was on the whole successful because of his colossal building projects. 

Of what good are sea ports, and many fortresses, when a King cannot and will not protect his people, especially the lowly and the innocent with no voice? I think of our President who encourages the killing of drug addicts and criminals, and infamously said that the fish in Manila Bay will grow fat with 100 thousand bodies thrown in. I also think of the people who say rah rah rah and continue to support him and put the blame on journalists who only write about the bad things he says and does. Do they believe that any good Pres. Duterte does outweighs what he is doing to the morals of our police officers who carry out his orders with impunity? Do they believe that helping the poor erases all the extrajudicial killings, the stiff bodies piling up unidentified in the morgues?  

Lord, have mercy on our country! We pray for the heart of our President. We pray that he will hear the cries of those who have lost their loved ones. We know there is nothing impossible with You, and we know that You can easily soften our President's heart (Prov. 21:1) We pray that you will use these dark times to call more and more people to turn to You, hear You and obey You. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

We Bear Witness!

"What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes...we bear witness to it..." 1 John 1:1-2

Today is the feast day of Saint John, the apostle and evangelist. He was part of a small group of ordinary men chosen by Jesus. Jesus talked to them, shared His meals with them, and walked with them for miles. They witnessed miracles, listened to Him preach to thousands of people. They must have seen Him tired, hungry, sad even, and disappointed. They saw Him weep when a friend died, and get angry when people were desecrating the Temple with their buying and selling. If there was anything He did that was not in consonance with what He was preaching, they would have seen it. But obviously what they saw was a man who lived what He preached, that they were willing to die for Him. According to the prolific Christian author Tertullian, Saint John was actually boiled in oil because of his preaching, and he suffered nothing from it. Many people who witnessed this miracle became Christians. 

Lord, I have read about You, know a lot about You, but am I willing to live a life worthy of You like the Saints? Has anyone become a Christian because of anything I have said and done?  

Monday, December 26, 2016

Saint Stephen and the Christmas Story

"Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power..." Acts 6:8

Yesterday we celebrated the Immanuel, God with us, the baby born in a manger to a virgin, among animals, because there was no room for Him anywhere. Today in the Catholic Church's readings, the beautiful Christmas story is followed by St. Luke's account of Saint Stephen, the church's first martyr, brutally dragged and stoned to death. Why the contrast? Perhaps because most of the world embraces the palatable, pleasant, engaging Christmas story of a mother and child. After all who doesn't love a story with myriads of angels singing, shepherds, cute sheep, and magnificent kings bearing wondrous gifts? Everyone has adopted the holiday, giving gifts, wishing everyone goodwill, baking cookies, drinking, and eating. Sometimes even the Christ Child is forgotten and forlorn amidst the tinsel! 

How much more has the world forgotten that part and parcel of the beautiful Christmas story is the un-beautiful crucifixion? That the same baby born to an innocent virgin would be, after 33 years, beaten and bruised, his face unrecognizably swollen and bloodied,  his back lacerated by whips with bone fragments? Jesus told his disciples that they too would be brought to trial, and flogged. They too would be called to witness on His account (Matthew 10). We may never be flogged, beaten, or stoned to death, but we should at least witness on His account! If we are brought to trial for being a Christian, will our words and actions find us guilty just as Saint Stephen was found guilty? 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Best Christmas Gift!

"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." John 1:14

What is the best gift we've received today? What is the most special gift we've received the whole of our life? I've read of some amazing gifts- David Beckham gave his wife Victoria a custom-made $500,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom and a $2.4 million ruby and diamond Boucheron necklace all for one Christmas. Angelina Jolie gave Brad Pitt the famous Frank Lloyd house with a waterfall. Aaron Spelling had 2 million dollars worth of fake snow delivered so Tori Spelling and her brother could play in it. 

I doubt if we've received anything approaching those extravagant gifts, but we have each received precious gifts that money can't buy. 

Sometimes Christmas becomes all about buying and wrapping gifts, cooking, going from one party to another, forgetting the birthday celebrant. The difference with this birthday celebrant is the more we give to Him, the more we receive from Him! 

Lord, may we put You center stage today and for all of our lives. You gave us the most precious gift of all- Yourself! You gave us eternal life, and all the promises that are better than cash in the bank! May we always appreciate gifts of the heart rather than gifts that the world puts high value on! 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Dayspring Comes!

"All this is the work of kindness of our God; He, the Dayspring, shall visit us in His mercy to shine on those who sit in darkness... to guide our feet into the way of peace." Luke 1:78-79

Why is Jesus called the Dayspring? And what is the Dayspring? Dayspring is translated from "shachar" which means dawn, morning light, aurora, the rising of the sun. Jesus is appropriately called the Dayspring because He is the Word. 

He brought the light of the Gospel 
into the world.

That's why we sing, "O come Thou Dayspring, come and cheer, Our spirits by Thine Advent here, Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, And death's dark shadows put to flight." 

Are we like Jesus, a disperser of gloom and darkness? Or do we spread pessimism, hopelessness and despair? Everywhere we go there are disheartened, angry people. 
There are people who ache for hope. We need to say to them, "Take courage! Nothing is impossible with God!" That is the message of Advent. That with Jesus, there is always a new day dawning, a brand new beginning, a fresh start. We should take hold of that and help others who need to believe it as well. 

Someone once said that the ones with the most hope shall be the most influential. With Jesus, we can shine on those who sit in darkness, and guide people into the way of peaceful hearts and minds. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Lord's Hand Upon Us!

"I wonder what this child will turn out to be? " Luke 1:66

Of course there would be wonder and speculation! Of course the news would spread throughout the Judean hills! Elizabeth, the one thought to be barren, who was very old, was now with child, and about to give birth. Her husband, the Jewish priest Zechariah, became mute some months ago, when angel Gabriel appeared to him while he was in the sanctuary. Now 8 days old, the boy would be circumcised, and all the friends and relatives assumed he would be named after his father. But Elizabeth said, "No, His name is John!" 

"What? But there is no one in your family named John!" they objected. And the mute father, wrote on a tablet, "His name is John!" Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and speak he did, praising God! The friends and relatives who were there repeated these events to their friends and relatives, and there was much amazement. "I wonder what this child will turn out to be? Surely the Lord's hand is upon him in a special way." We all know that John grew up to be a great prophet, and he met an ignominious end for his convictions. 

We too have a special story about how loved and precious we are to our parents, how excited they were when they found out they were going to have a child, how our godparents were chosen, little things and big things. Indeed our parents and relatives probably wondered what would become of us. Our story may not be written down for all to read, but the Lord's hand was upon us in a special way, and still is. 

Lord, may we live our life for You. Like John, You have a special plan for each of us, a purpose. May we be faithful, and diligent, and excel in what You have given us to do. May we grow in our abilities and strengths and live to give You glory! 


Thursday, December 22, 2016

God Granted My Request!

"I prayed for this child, and the Lord granted my request." 1 Samuel 1:27

Hannah was a desperate woman. She was the wife of a man with two wives. The other wife, Peninnah, had children, and made fun of Hannah who was barren. Peninnah goes down in history as a woman who in spite of all she had, all her blessings, resorted to taunting a woman who already was in pain. What was Hannah's response? Prayer. Not revenge. She did not ask her husband to punish Peninnah. She did not put a snake in Peninnah's bedroom. She went to the Tabernacle to pray. She prayed so fervently and desperately that Eli the priest thought she was drunk and reprimanded her. "Oh no! I'm not drunk, just very sad. I have been pleading with the Lord in anguish and sorrow!" 

Eli said to her: “Go in peace. And may the God of Israel grant to you your petition, which you have begged of him.” 

Perhaps we have an enemy like Peninnah who likes to rub her victory in our face. I'm thinking of all the wrong thinking people in our country today, so vocal about approving all the killings and the death penalty. They taunt and insult, and sometimes make threats. What should be our response? Prayer. Prayer changes things. We may not see the changes yet, but if we persist like Hannah, we will give birth to a better, kinder world for us and for our children. 


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Precious Daughter!

"Rejoice, O highly favored daughter!" Luke 1:28

Although this was told to Mary by an angel, I imagine God saying this to us. I like the saying, "Always remember to wear your invisible crown." Indeed, if we really knew who we are, we would know that we really have invisible crowns. We are sons and daughters of the King of earth and sky, of the myriads of universes, of the seas and mountains, of everything created and every seen and unseen power. This King, our Father, values us so much, He sent His Son to die for us. Can we imagine being so valuable and precious, that someone would give their life for us? 

Regardless of what we think of ourselves, the world's biggest failure, unlovable, worthless, or a loser, the truth is we are unimaginably loved. No matter how many times we sin, even if we fail at all our subjects in school, even if we are the worst parent, nothing, absolutely nothing can separate us from God's love (Romans 8:38). We are His children, heirs to all the promises in the Bible. If we do not realize that we are the apple of God's eye, we should delve into Scripture, write down all what our Father thinks of us, like Isaiah 43:4- "You are precious and glorious in my sight, and I love you!" Let us not waste a minute, a second, thinking otherwise! 

When we know we are loved, we are free to love and bless others. We will be more generous and giving. The enemy knows this and that is why he wants to destroy our self image. He wants us to always think of ourselves first. 

Lord, may I know who I am in Your eyes. May I not be so busy building up myself in other people's eyes, but instead may I know the truth that I am valuable and loved by You! 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Faith to Move Mountains!

"But now you will be mute, unable to speak- because you have not trusted my words." Luke 1:20

Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, and his wife Elizabeth, had been praying for a child for a long time. But when an angel told Zechariah that his prayers had been answered, he did not believe  and gave the angel excuses why it could not happen. Many times we are like Zechariah. We pray and pray but a little voice tells us, no it's not going to happen. And we give reasons why it's not going to happen! We pray for healing but in the next breath, say to ourselves that the doctor said we need this operation or this expensive medicine. In Romans 10:17, Saint Paul says that faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and in Hebrews we learn that without faith it is impossible to please God. If we want to grow in faith, we need to dig deep into God's Word. Maybe that's why Zechariah was struck dumb, so he could spend some quiet time meditating on the books of the law. If we read what Jesus said and did, we will expect the impossible to happen. Jesus is the same today as He was when He walked on the earth and made great and wonderful things happen. But we first need to spend time with Him, so that we see ourselves in the midst of all the happening things. Each of us are given a mustard seed of faith, and we need to take care of it and learn how to grow it. It should be one of the priorities of our life. But if we spend most of our time watching TV, or going through social media or shopping, then obviously, the fruit of that isn't going to be faith.

Lord, may I look to You and study Your words. I want to do things Your way. Help me to grow my mustard seed faith and see miracles happening around me and through me! 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

God With Us!

"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14

What folly is this? Immanuel? God with us, born amongst us? Born as a mere mortal, helpless in his mother's arms? Dependent upon an immature young virgin who had no recourse but to depend on God for everything, even her reputation? 

Pope Francis in his spiritual reflection writes, "Think well on this: God is with us and God still trusts us. God the Father is generous. He comes to abide with mankind; He chooses earth as His dwelling place, to remain with people and to be found where man passes his days in joy or in sorrow. Therefore, earth is no longer only a 'valley of tears'; rather, it is the place where God has pitched His tent, it is the meeting place of God with man, of God's solidarity with men....

He chose to live in our history as it is, with all the weight of its limitations and tragedies. In doing so, He demonstrated in an unequalled manner His merciful and truly loving disposition toward the human creature."

In meditating on this mystery of God with us, let us put ourselves in His place, and strive to see the world we live in as He does. As Jesus said in Matthew 25, "Whatever you did for one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me." He is beside us, He walks with us, as the Aetas congregating on the streets at Christmas, the prisoners who do not have space enough to sleep, even the old man sleeping beside us at the 4 am Novena mass. 

Lord, may we see the signs of Your presence among us. May we never take for granted that You chose to be One with us! 


Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Same Family!

I do not like throwing my 
daily Bible readings and so 
I brush it over with either gesso 
or the cheaper alternative, wall putty. 
 Then I play with my acrylic paints, rubber stamps, and other mark makers. 

Then I either draw or pick a picture 
to transfer to the page with carbon paper. 

I usually draw on a separate sheet
of paper so I can easily erase
and redraw lines. 
Plus I can reuse my drawing! 

Then I paint with acrylic paint.

When it is time to paint shadows
I use two brushes.
One to apply the darker flesh paint,
the second one to water it down 
to make the shading gradual. 

Next I use a pencil to outline and shade.
And then I use a thin permanent pen to put the Bible verse. 

"It was of Mary that Jesus who is called the Messiah was born." Matthew 1:16

Going through the first part of Matthew can be tedious, and I tend to skip all the begats and son ofs. I am sure I can go through all of them and find some nugget of wisdom. That's what the Bible is, after all- a treasure chest of gems, precious jewels and pearls. 

I skip all that and reach Matthew 1:16, and find that instead of the son of the father, we see that Jesus is the son of the WIFE of Joseph. That is unusual in a genealogy. Women were not usually mentioned in Jewish genealogies. Nowhere in the Bible is the name of King David's poor mother mentioned! But all that changes with Jesus! 

Matthew lists Jesus' genealogy all the way from Abraham, showing His roots and His family. But He becomes part of that family through the Holy Spirit because Mary conceived by the power of the Spirit. Do we realize that we are part of that same family by the power of the same Spirit? 

From Anawim, I read, "We cannot choose our ancestors. As much as we might prefer to descend from a line of great and powerful kings, there is nothing we can do about it. But now, because of Jesus Christ, we can choose to be part of a greater and more powerful family that far surpasses our natural background. By faith, we are children of Abraham, we are children of David- we are children of God!" Now that is something to rejoice about! 


Friday, December 16, 2016

Fruit of the Earth!

"The earth has yielded its fruits." Psalm 67:6

Even in farming, God has plenty to say in the Bible. There is a foundation, "Farming God's Way" that seeks to promote Biblical principles of farming to farmers across Africa. These farmers cannot even provide enough for their families to eat. Even if billions of dollars are poured into Africa every year, the poor get poorer, and this rich land is turned into a begging bowl. But when they are taught to follow God's ways instead of worshipping other gods and following witch doctors, they are able to harvest more from their land. 

In the beginning of Israel's statehood,  David ben Gurion, its first Prime Minister said, "These lands apparently abandoned and hopeless may in a not so distant future become alive and pulsing with willpower, and unknown resources will yield great blessings if we only can delve into their secrets." 

Israel is 60% desert but because of several religious kibbutz' founded in the 1930s, they were able to study the land, and make the desert bloom with crops even if the water was brackish. 

Whatever we do, we should always spend time with God so that we will be fruitful. George Washington Carver was a farmer and he would pray every morning and ask God what he should do. He was so successful he discovered how to make 300 different products from his  peanut produce. He was single handedly responsible for saving the South in the 1900s when the boll weevil destroyed almost all of their cotton crops. 

When asked about his success, George Washington Carver explained: "It is not we little men who do the work, but it is our blessed Creator working through us...Everyone can have this power, if they only believe. The secret lies," and he touched his Bible, "right here in the promises of God. They are real, but so few people believe them to be real." 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Expand Your Tent!

"Enlarge the space for your tent..." Isaiah 54:2

Yesterday, we had a surprise visitor at the office. My sisters and I hadn't seen him for years, and he entertained us with his stories. He was with his 8th wife, and had 9 children that he knew of, scattered who knows where. He only stopped taking drugs after his family spent thereabouts of 15 million pesos for his 6 years spent in and out of rehab, and after realizing he was a grandfather and should stop his foolishness. While I was listening to him, I got excited. Although he told us that his mother told him never to talk about politics or religion, my sister said that if he was with us, we almost talked of nothing but religion! 

When we meet someone, do we have the mindset that maybe, just maybe, here was an opportunity to enlarge our tents? To lengthen our ropes, to make firm our stakes? Enlarging our tents means growing, blooming, spreading our sphere of influence. For God. If we believe that living in God's light is living life in all its fullness, we will want that for others as well. And we will want to introduce others to that way of living, and a relationship with Jesus. Everywhere in the world, even in countries where people are being killed for being Christians, people are meeting Jesus, and Jesus is changing lives. Lord, I want to be a part of Your great big plan to bring Your message that can change the world, to every part of the globe! Let me not limit You by my fears or my expectations, but let me see You work as I take steps in faith. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

WOYWW: Saint John of the Cross

Here on my desk today
is my planner and some water brushes
and ink I am trying out. 

Usually I just write and draw on
my planner with my fine pen. 

But when I have time
I take out my rubber stamps,
washi tape, stickers, etc. 
and embellish the pages.

I really like going through my planner
and adding bits and pieces to it! 

"Turn to me and be safe, all you ends of the earth, for I am God." 
Isaiah 45:22

Today is the feast day of Saint John of the Cross, a priest and Doctor of the Church. If there ever was a man who could teach one how to find joy in the midst of total darkness, this man could. He lived in poverty since birth, and after he became a priest, his troubles did not cease. Some of the other brothers did not accept the reforms he wanted to bring to the Carmelite Order, like bringing it back to a life of prayer, and they actually imprisoned him for 9 months in a small, dark, and cold cell! But this desolation gave seed to the great mystical works he left the Church. He knew from this experience that joy comes only from God, and one did not need anything but God! 

"What more do you want, o soul!" He wrote. "And what else do you search for outside, when within yourself you possess your riches, delights, satisfaction, and kingdom- your beloved whom you desire and seek? Desire Him there, adore Him there. Do not go in pursuit of Him outside yourself."

In every life, there is some darkness. We should find the light in Him whose light will never go out. Yes, Lord, when we turn to You, we shall be safe. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Remnant

"I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly..." Zephaniah 3:12

God always calls His people to humility and lowliness. He knows that is the only time He can speak to us, and we will listen and obey. He cannot reach us when we think we know it all, when we feel we are doing everything right, when we set ourselves apart from the "sinners" who deserve all the bad things that happen to them. 

But there is always a remnant God preserves. In Zephaniah's prophecy, God is angry because His people were rebellious, and did not trust Him. The prophets He called were treacherous and reckless. The priests profaned His sanctuaries. The people knew no shame. Injustice ruled the land. Sound familiar? And yet God, always the Father, preserved a remnant who took refuge in the Lord. 

Even within us, no matter how far we go from the right way, how distant we stray from God's path, there will be a "remnant" within us. God will always continue to call us to be His own. He will never give up! He will always persist. In the Gospel reading for today, Jesus admonishes the righteous chief priests and elders, "Let me make it clear that tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you!" (Matthew 21:31) Like God, we too must never lose hope that no matter how bad a person seems, be he an evil drug lord, a corrupt politician or petty thief, there is always room for him in God's Kingdom. Just as there is always room for us!