Monday, December 31, 2018


“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us...” John 1:14

What gave the apostle John this amazing insight? In the very last chapter of John’s gospel, he writes, “This is the disciple who bears witness of these things, and wrote these things...” In chapter 19, where John writes about the crucifixion, he says, “He who has seen has borne witness, and his witness is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may also believe.” 

John the apostle walked with Jesus, spoke with Him, listened, even argued with Him. John alone of all the disciples remained near Jesus along with the women at Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus asked John to take care of His beloved mother and he took her home with him. What stories would he hear from Mary? Did he ask the questions the well loved song asks? “Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water? Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters? Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new? This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.” 

John wrote in 21:25, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written.” That only means John knew there was so much more to write about! 

John knew Jesus from His mother’s stories, from being with Him, from witnessing the crucifixion, and seeing Jesus after His resurrection from the dead. That is why John remained faithful and steadfast even in the midst of Nero’s persecution of Christians in A.D. 54 through 68, and then Domitian’s in A.D. 81-96. He was banished to Patmos by the Roman authorities, still considered a threat in his old age, and there he wrote the Book of Revelation. 

How about us? We may not have walked with Jesus or talked with Him, but we can read the words of one who did. As John wrote: “No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed Him.” (John 1:18)

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Jesus in our Hearts

“You should have known that I would be in My Father’s house.” Luke 2:49

Joseph and Mary went to Jerusalem every year on the Feast of the Passover. When Jesus was 12 years old, they all joined the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast. Passover is a major Jewish holiday, celebrated up to the present to commemorate the Exodus. This was the time God liberated the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt 3,300 years ago. With signs and wonders, God led the Jews from Egypt, through the parting of the Red Sea, the wilderness of Mount Sinai, and gave Moses the Ten Commandments. 

After the week long festivities, Joseph and Mary started walking towards Nazareth. After one day of travel, they looked for Jesus, thinking he was in the caravan of family and friends journeying homeward. When they could not find him, they walked back and searched for Him. They found him three days after the Feast was over. 

Where did they find Jesus? In the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard Him were astonished at His understanding  and intelligence. Of course His parents had been worried! “Son, why have You treated us this way? We were so distressed to find You were not with us,” His mother lamented. 

“Didn’t you know I would be in My Father’s house?” Jesus replies. Where will we find Jesus today? He wishes to live in the temple of our hearts. Can He find a home in our hearts? During Passover in the Holy Land, one of the activities is cleaning their houses, from top to bottom, vacuuming especially for any minuscule chametz (“leaven”). We too should spend time searching our hearts for “leaven”, ways we disobey God and His laws. Let us make sure there is room for Jesus this Christmas season and always!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

The Picture of our Souls

“...the darkness has blinded his eyes.” 1John 2:11

This morning I read about an anti-smoking commercial that said, “If smoking did to you on the outside what it is doing to you on the inside, would you still smoke?” Smokers’ lungs are dark not pink. It is mottled with multiple cavities filled with inhaled tar and black carbon deposits. It is also harder and brittle compared to non-smokers’ lungs. 

I imagine if our faces and bodies become dark and mottled with ugly black marks, we would do whatever we can to stop the spread of ugliness. This leads me to wonder what my soul looks like. Is it marbled and blotchy with sin, unforgiveness, the little irritations of every day? 

I remember the novel I read when I was young entitled, “The Picture of Dorian Gray by the infamous Oscar Wilde. The 1890 novel tells of a handsome man who had his portrait painted. Gray, in his vanity, sells his soul to preserve his looks and ensure that the painting instead would age. Not only did the painting age, it showed evidence of every sin and crime Gray committed as he slipped more and more into an amoral and decadent lifestyle. 

It may be that our friends think we live a righteous life, we go to mass, we fast on days we are obligated to, we say 2000 Hail Marys with our church group, and we give alms to the poor. What is the portrait of our soul that God sees? Are we obedient to Him, humble not arrogant, loving towards our neighbors? Or are we like the Pharisees who like to make an outward show of their holiness and obedience to the smallest letter of the law? 

Father, pierce the darkness that blinds us and show us the way to Your heart! 

Friday, December 28, 2018

God is Light

“God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

Today, we commemorate the Feast of the Holy Innocents. 

Herod the Great, King of Judea, was called great because he built cities, great palaces, temples, stadiums and fortresses. But he was infamous because he had 3 of his sons killed for treason, and put to death his favorite of his 10 wives, one of his mothers-in-law, a high priest, several uncles and a few cousins. In the 2nd chapter of Matthew, and in the writings of Macrobius, we learn that he ordered innocent little boys 2 years old and younger, taken from their mothers and massacred in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas. He liked to construct buildings but he destroyed people and lives. What a malevolent darkness there is in man that he gives more worth to impermanent things than to an unborn baby, a suspected drug addict, or an old and chronically sick person? 

This Christmas season, after all the hectic gift buying and partying, let us sit down and ponder the miracle of God’s love for us. How priceless each one of us is, that He came down as a defenceless baby, to save us from darkness and sin. It does not matter to God if we are Scarlett Johanssen who made $40.5 million last year, or Floyd Mayweather who earned $285 million in winnings and endorsements, or a janitor who takes home minimum wage to his family. 

Each one is precious, the “apple of His eye”, and He will do everything to bring us home. There is no speck of darkness in God, and if we are suffering now, in great difficulty, we need only to bask in His light, to see ourselves as He sees us, to see our situation as He sees it. 

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Visible and the Invisible

“...for the life was made visible.” 1 John 1:1-4

We are usually unaware of what is invisible even if the unseen is actually more essential, more determining of our circumstances, more portentous, and of great consequence and significance. We are not puppets for God gave us the wonderful gift of free will but as St. Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”  St. Paul tells us we have enemies arrayed against us, looking for any weakness we have and strategizing schemes to make us fall. 

How important it must be then to know the unseen power we have, the armor God has given us to make us “more than conquerors”. 

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39

Thank You Lord, for the Word was made flesh, was made visible, for us who believe and wish to dwell in Your light. Cast out the darkness! Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus! 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Do Not Worry

“ not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say.” Matthew 10:19

Every day I read my Bible, paint on it, read Anawim or some other liturgical meditation book, and write down what I feel God is telling me. I’ve done this for years. It was in 2006 when I started embellishing my journals to help me remember the Bible verses. Then in 2009, I started putting my meditations on my blog. I felt God wanted me to share His Word with others, and it was as if He had trained me for it, in the years I would just write and write on my innumerable journals. Sometimes I wonder why I do it, but then as long as He gives me the words, I know God wants me to do it. I believe whatever the task God gives, He will supply what we need to accomplish it. 

I’m not smart, and although I read a lot, I have a difficulty remembering what I’ve read or who wrote it. Google is my best friend because I just search something like “lady who lost her arm in war” or something like that, to remember a particular story with relevance to what I want to say. What Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 10 holds true for me. I need never fear what I am to speak, or write. He provides magnificently. And if He doesn’t, that’s all right too. He has another plan. 

I remember when I was inviting a friend to Bible study, and she asked me a question about the Bible. I could not answer, even if I felt it was an easy question. Anyway, the very next day, she asked the same question of a stranger who was at the right place at the right time. The stranger turned out to be a Pastor and she or he was able to answer the question to my friend’s satisfaction. My friend who was a nominal Catholic converted and became evangelical. I believe that was and is God’s plan for her. She homeschooled her children and became really active in church. 

Sometimes we do not embark on something because we are anxious we cannot do it. We need to be confident that if it’s something God wants us to do, He will be right there with us. If it’s something God wants to happen, we need to make ourselves available. Let us offer whatever measly “loaves and fishes” we have so we can be a part of God’s plans, whatever they are! 

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Stepping Into His Own Creation

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us." John 1:14 

Can our minds wrap around this truth? The One who made the earth, the universe, who put the stars and the planets in their place, became a man and walked with us for 33 years! He was born of a peasant woman, but He was a King! Heaven came to that little town, Bethlehem, and the angels were His army. The powerful rulers of His time tried to destroy Him. But they were the ones who were destroyed. The Kingdom that He came to build on earth, His Church, is still alive and flourishing here on earth!

That same Word who became flesh, who is outside of time and place, entered time and stepped into His own creation, to become the Immanuel, “God with us”. That same God wants to dwell in our hearts. May we make a place for Him by “cleaning up the cobwebs” of festering disappointments, envy, shame, guilt, resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness, whatever keeps us from having a good relationship with the God who loves us best. 

Let us rejoice because He came to free us from the poisons the enemy wants us to imbibe every day. If we follow the way of the Lord, we will reap a harvest of blessing! 

Monday, December 24, 2018

Presence not Presents

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for He has come to His people and set them free.” Luke 1:68

Yesterday during mass, the priest’s homily was all about how our “presence” was more important than “presents” this Christmas. We can spend a lot of time buying and wrapping gifts, but we really need to spend time with our family, friends, and especially the sick members of our family and community. I feel guilty about this because it was also yesterday that my husband Luigi and I went around to drop our Christmas gifts at our friends’ homes and did not have the time to stop and even say “Hello”! It always seems to be rush rush rush. In the malls you see the never ending long lines at the cashier and I think about our staff and how they have no time to spend with their families. The malls close at midnight and the traffic is so bad it’s nicknamed “carmaggedon”! 

God did not and does not rush rush rush. He is ever patient in His plan for us to get to know Him. We celebrate Christmas because He gave us the first priceless Christmas gift, Himself, His presence. Immanuel means “God with us”. We always read, “Jesus is the reason for the season”, and that’s true. It is also true that you and me, WE are the reason for the season. God loves us so much He GAVE His only begotten Son that we who believe in Him, will not die but live with Him in friendship for eternity! (John 3:16)

Let us intentionally spend time with Him who loves us best. We will never conceive how long (forever), how wide (east to west and everywhere), how high (no limit to His forgiveness) and how deep is His love. Corrie Ten Boom, who was arrested and placed in Scheveningen for helping Jews escape, said, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.” 

God sent His Son so we would get to Know Him and His love for each and everyone of us. Come Immanuel, my spirit rejoices in You! 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

How Can This Be?

“Why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Luke 1:43

Why do Catholics call Mary the Ark of the New Covenant? There are many parallels in Saint Luke's gospel that show us why. Here are just a few.

The Holy Spirit overshadowed and then indwelled the Ark just as the Spirit overshadowed and indwelled Mary. Both Mary and the Ark became the dwelling place of the presence of God. Just as Mary traveled to the house of Elizabeth and stayed there for 3 months, so was the Ark brought to Obed-Edom, only a short distance away from Ein Kerem (Elizabeth's place in the hill country), and remained there for 3 months. John the Baptist, of priestly lineage, while in his mother's womb, leapt at the approach of Mary. So too David, dressed as a priest, leapt and danced before the ark. Inside the Ark of the Covenant, were the stone tablets of the Law, the manna from the wilderness, and the rod of Aaron, the proof of true priesthood. Inside Mary's womb, was the Word of God made flesh, the Bread of Life, and the actual and eternal High Priest.

Just like Elizabeth, I ask, "Why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord shall come to me?" Just like David, I ask, "How can the Ark of the Covenant come to me?" (2 Samuel 6:9). Indeed He comes, ever new, ever faithful. I await Him and He comes. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

I Rejoice!

“My spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” Luke 1:46

As Christmas approaches, can we rejoice with Mary in the magnificent gift of our Savior? Or are we too caught up in the many things we have to do, gift buying and wrapping, cooking, attending parties, and decorating? Have we taken the time to slow down and spend some moments with the birthday celebrant, appreciating His many gifts to us? Yes, it is His birthday we celebrate, but He is the One bearing gifts! He came into our broken, angry, dissatisfied world, because He is the only One who could save us from ourselves. 

God our Father gave His only begotten Son to be formed in Mary’s womb. That in itself is mind boggling! But just as He carefully formed Jesus in Mary, He also forms His Son in us. That is what God wants to do in the life of a Christian. Just as God’s creative Word brought Jesus into our world, His Word can bring us new life and make us new creatures! 

I acknowledge that I’m a bigger mess than I’ll ever know and I would not want to welcome anyone into the pettiness of my mind. The amazing thing is our Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit all did and are doing what they can to mend what is broken in me, heal what is sick, guide me when I am lost, and free me when I’m trapped in a mess of my own making. That’s why I rejoice! 

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Design of God’s Heart

“But the plan of the Lord stands forever; the design of His heart, through all generations.” Psalm 33:11

I take great comfort in this verse. God’s plans do not change whimsically, and He has His reasons for what He does. The reason is always love. When I was young, I was staring at a plaque I had made out of cardboard and gesso and paint. I had written the words, “God is love” on it. Although I had placed it there without much thought, God wrote it on my heart all those years ago. I remember staring at it a long time with the realization that it was true. It became “rhema” to me, God’s Word became alive for me. 

Just as God called Abraham, Moses, the patriarchs, just as sent His Son to save us,  He calls us, too. He has a plan for each and everyone of us. Behind every closed door we face, every unanswered prayer, every person who hurt us, there is God’s love. Jeremiah prophesied in chapter 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Ravi Zacharias, the well known apologist travels the world today giving talks to thousands and thousands of people. When he was a young boy you would have never thought he would be successful and live a life of purpose. Even his father pronounced, “You know, you’re going to be a huge embarrassment to the family—one failure after another.”

In his despair, Ravi even tried to commit suicide. Failure always stared him in the face. He tells the story that he was training to be a pilot and of 300 candidates, he placed in number 3, so he was sure he would be accepted. When the commanding officer interviewed him, the officer said, “Son, I’m going to break your heart today. I’m going to reject you. I’m not going to pass you in this test.” “May I ask you why, sir?” Ravi replied. “Yes. Psychologically, you’re not wired to kill. And this job is about killing.”

If Ravi would have been accepted and became a General Duty pilot, he would not be where he is today. He is an effective apologist and evangelist, a defender of the faith who leads people to Christ and trains Christian preachers. God knows our frame, He knows our uniqueness. After all, He made us and loves us. 

This Advent, as we move closer to the season of Christmas, let us reflect on God’s plan for mankind in relation to us. Perhaps there are disappointments in our life or mistakes we regret. Allow God space to work and weave His own threads into the tapestry of our life. We can be sure His design will be beautiful and full of love. 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Anunciation

“...May it be done unto me according to your word.” Luke 1:38

Today we read about the Anunciation of the blessed Virgin Mary, when the Archangel Gabriel announced to Mary, “You will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great, and He will be called Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of David His father...and His Kingdom will have no end.” 

Mary was a very young girl when Gabriel appeared to her. She must have been trembling and yes, greatly troubled, but the angel said, “Do not fear for you have found favor with God.” Because of this young maiden’s “Yes”, the world was turned upside down in a silent but deadly battle. 

We all like watching movies where we know the hero, against all odds, even if everything is stacked up against him, will emerge out of rubble, victorious. We know the ending because we know the director won’t kill off the character played by the leading man. In the world today it may appear that everything is stacked up against good, and evil is prevailing, but that is far from the truth. God is waiting in infinite patience for each one of us give our voluntary yes to Him like Mary did 2000 years ago. 

From my favorite daily meditation book, Anawim, I quote: “The Anunciation gives us a glimpse of how the power of God can enter the world when He receives a whole-hearted ‘yes’ from man.” This Advent season, may we look more deeply into our heart and find space for the Christ child to dwell and grow. Let us give God our whole-hearted ‘Yes’! 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

To Birth a Dream

“My words will certainly come true at the proper time.” Luke 1:20

These were the words of the angel Gabriel to the Jewish priest Zechariah. While Zechariah was burning incense inside the sanctuary by himself, Gabriel appeared to him. He announced that the prayers of Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth had  been heard and Elizabeth, even in her old age, would bear a son. 

There are many stories in the Bible about women who were barren, who received intervention from God, and were given a son. There’s Elizabeth who was too old to bear children, Zorah who gave birth to Samson, Rebekah, Sarah, Hannah, and Rachel. Each of these women turned to God in their brokenness and hopelessness. 

How about us? Sometimes we can be spiritually barren, feeling hopeless, guilty, messed up. What we don’t know is if we turn to God and make a space for Him, He will show us His plan. We need to come before God like these women did. To birth a dream, we need God’s power and grace. Sometimes we think a miracle is when God gives us what we want. Isn’t it a greater miracle when we yield to what God wants for us? His plans are much greater than what we can conceive for ourselves. This Advent season, let us pray as Jesus prayed, “Your will be done”, and wait for God’s design to unfold in a wonderful way! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Have No Fear

“Joseph, son of David, have no fear...” 

Matthew 1:20

How many of us live in fear and anxiety? Sometimes we do not know what to do. Life can be full of situations where we are caught between a rock and a hard place. Men and women get into relationships that lead them from sin to sin. Lives are so complicated even while we yearn for clarity and simplicity. It appears that Joseph was a simple man, a good man. The direction of his life was uncomplicated and clear until he was thrust into the middle maelstrom of contradiction and perplexity. What was he to do when the woman he thought was pure and humble was pregnant? Should he break their engagement as the law prescribed? Intervention came in the form of an angel who advised him of God’s plan. 

In today’s world, we do not see angels very often, but God often sends us people to show us His plan. I listened to the preacher Ravi Zacharias on YouTube last night and he told the story of a preacher and church planter in Lebanon named Sami Dagher. Sami knows no fear in his work for the Lord. He says God is moving in the Middle East and He has started several churches in Iraq, and Syria, even under the threat of death. One night as he and his British wife Joy were driving home, he saw a suitcase lying by the side of the road. He stopped and picked it up even if his wife Joy protested, “It’s not ours. Sami, leave it alone.” 

Sami opened the case when they got home, and it was packed, every inch, with money. He searched for some identification, and when he found it, he called the man on the card. “Have you lost something?” he asked. The silence on the other end was so thick, you could hear a pin drop, then the man finally answered, “Have you found it?” Sami reassured the man that his money was safe and he could come retrieve the case in the morning. The man came and they talked. “I took out all my money from the bank. I wanted to escape the country. I strapped the suitcase to the top of my car. When I saw that it was gone, I retraced my path and could not find it!” 

The man opened the suitcase, got a handful of money and offered it to Sami. The preacher said, “No, no, no. I only take an offering like that on a Sunday. Come to my church on Sunday.” The man brought his whole family and attended the service. The evening Ravi Zacharias was leaving Lebanon, Sami was hosting the man and his family. He gave Bibles to each family member. “You thought you lost your treasure,” he reminded. “Who really wants Lebanese money? I’ll give you the treasure that moths cannot devour.” The man could not stop crying. 

Like Joseph, we need not fear. We are not alone. God wants to speak to us. God wants to walk with us. This Advent season, let us turn to Him with joy! 

Monday, December 17, 2018

His Mother was Rahab

“...his mother was Rahab.” Matthew 1:5

We can see from the genealogy of Jesus in the first chapter of Matthew, that God is very patient, and He has intricately woven strands of different kinds of people into His story. The genealogy began with Abraham, the first to believe in God’s promises and ends with Mary, who saw God’s promise fulfilled. 

The long list includes only five women which is quite unusual in a Jewish genealogy. One of them is Rahab, found in the 2nd book of Joshua. She was a prostitute who protected the two men Joshua secretly sent from the Israelite camp to spy out the land they were going to invade. Even if she was part of an idolatrous people, the Amorites, God opened her eyes to see His plan. "I know the Lord has given you this land," she told the two spies. "The Lord Your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below." (Joshua 2:9-11) Rahab, the prostitute, married Salmon, one of the spies, and became the mother of Boaz, who married Ruth, another woman who made it into the genealogy of Jesus. Ruth also had some conviction that she should follow Naomi, her mother-in-law, and be part of Naomi's people. 

In Matthew 7:7, Jesus tells the crowd, "Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened." In the case of Rahab, she had obviously heard about God from the travelers she entertained in her house which was against the town wall. She knew He made a dry path through the Red Sea so the Jews could pass, how He helped the Jews conquer peoples and kings. As with Ruth, she knew about God through her marriage to Naomi's son. Both Rahab and Ruth decided they wanted to be part of the story God was weaving. 

We can see that even if we come from a dung heap like Rahab the harlot, or if we're an ordinary man or woman with every day challenges, we can decide to be part of His story. We can wait for God’s plan to unfold in our lives, and be a part of His pilgrim people who longs to one day see  His face.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Revive Us!

“Revive us so we can call on Your name once more." Psalm 80:18

Yesterday my sister Peggy, and her husband Charlie, in behalf of the Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon, along with the Restorative Justice Ministry, distributed Christmas gift bags to the inmates of QC Jail. It was a very happy occasion, made more joyous because of the many generous brothers and sisters who donated money, sardines, and shorts for the 300 students of the RJM.  Then there were t-shirts enough for all 3,000 inmates, given by batches to the mayores to distribute. The prisoners arranged a program, singing songs and performing a rap song composed for the Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon Community (The Joy of the Lord). The basketball court was crowded with people as they gave out the gift bags, slippers and briefs to the grateful men. 

After the visit, my sister said she felt like “tinapa”, or smoked fish, as the air had been full of smoke. She felt hot and grimy, and would have welcomed a cool, refreshing bath. Imagine how the inmates feel, cooped up in a space made for 800 people! Imagine how difficult it would be to line up and bathe in bathrooms with doors removed because a man had committed suicide inside a cubicle! 

Spiritually we can accumulate filth too. If only we could physically feel the dirt that piles up in our hearts when we are envious, impatient, unloving, stingy, angry, uncharitable or merciless. If only we couldn't sleep at night when we have anything in our spirit that does not please our Heavenly Father! 

Lord, this Advent, may we look deep within our hearts and minds and see ourselves as You see us. It may dismay and disgust us, but only You Lord, can refresh us, revive us, make us new creatures with a new heart! Nothing is impossible with You! 

Friday, December 14, 2018

Pass Him By

“How shall I describe this generation?” 

Matthew 11:16

God meets us where we are. He welcomes and loves us whatever kind of person we are. He goes down to our level. We are the ones who reject Him because in His love for us, He gave us freedom to reject Him. Jesus compared us to children in the public square, complaining, “We played wedding songs and you refused to be happy, so we played funeral songs, but you were not sad.”

This reminds me of an experiment conducted in JAN. 12, 2007 in the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in Washington DC. Joshua Bell, a renowned world-class virtuoso played his handcrafted 1713 Stradivarius violin worth $3.5 million dollars for 45 minutes. He performed 6 intricate Bach pieces. Most people rushed by. They were busy getting to work, to school, carrying bags and packages. Very few slowed down even for a short time. Several children would stop, entranced, but they were all, without exception, pulled by their harassed parents, to move on. He earned $32.17 for his efforts. Only 27 people dropped some money in appreciation out of 1097 people who passed. Only 7 people stopped and only 1 recognized him. It is ironic that the same Joshua Bell played 3 days earlier in a Symphony Hall where people paid $100 a seat. 

How many of us stop, look and listen when God shows us His face? How many of us recognize Him and His thumbprints all around us? Are we too busy, too preoccupied, too stressed that we just pass Him by, and don’t see, or feel His love? God serenades us with love songs every single day and we just pass Him by with nary a glance. 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Violent Take it by Force

“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force.” Matthew 11:12

In my other Bible, I read, “...the Kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” (NIV) Does Jesus mean that we have to be spiritually aggressive to lay hold of Kingdom blessings? Is faith a violent force? Are we not taught that the meek inherit the earth? 

But we also need to remember St. Paul’s admonition to Timothy. “Fight the good fight of faith!” he wrote in 1 Timothy 6:12. Then he writes the believers in Ephesus that, “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” If that isn’t WAR in capital letters, I don’t know what is!

We are in a war alright, and we are in the thick of it, whether we like it or not, whether we know it or not. The enemy is wily, deceitful, and likes to use our weaknesses against us. Should we be meek in the face of that? The Greek word “praus” translated as meek actually means more than just being mild-mannered or gentle. It is more accurate to say that those who exercise God’s strength under His control will inherit the earth. How do we use God’s strength? 

St. Paul warned that we need to put on every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy so we will stand firm. One part of that armor is the belt of truth which sadly is getting battered from all sides. We also need the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. (Ephesians 6:10-18) 

Last but not least, we need to pray at all times in the power of the Holy Spirit. These are the weapons of war, and this is how we will be victorious against our adversary, the devil, who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

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.