Saturday, February 29, 2020

Follow Me

“Follow me.” Luke 5:27

Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He called out to him, “Follow me!”, and Levi got up, leaving everything behind. How many people would be like Levi? Certainly not the Pharisees and scribes, who were too busy observing Jesus, looking for His mistakes and sins. 

Like Levi, Jesus calls us where we are, whatever we are doing. We may not be occupied with sinful things like Levi, who would have been greedy and kept part of the collected taxes for himself. But even while we are washing dishes, playing golf, looking though friends' posts on Facebook, or just walking, Jesus calls us.

When He calls, and we decide to follow, we have to leave certain things behind. We have to avoid sin. If we knew what sin does to us spiritually, we would stay far away from it just as we stay away from crowds because of the COVID-19 virus. 

Our bodies will just be consigned to the crematorium or left in a hole in the ground.  We can't see what sin does to our soul, and our soul will last forever. I am sure that sin does worse things to our souls than the COVID-19 virus could ever do to our bodies!!! If we are able to stay away from sin, we can celebrate and Jesus will celebrate with us, much like Levi rejoiced in his new found freedom!

Friday, February 28, 2020

Give Up Giving Up

“This, rather, is the fasting I wish...” Isaiah 58:6

Today’s First Reading and Gospel focuses on fasting, but says nothing about abstaining from food. What kind of fasting pleases the Lord? I would think the popular meme being passed around for Lent would answer that. We should go through it one by one, and see which one hits a sore spot. 

Give up worry—— trust in the Lord.

Give up complaining----focus on gratitude.

Give up pessimism----become an optimist.

Give up harsh judgments----think kind thoughts.

Give up discouragement----be full of hope.

Give up bitterness----turn to forgiveness.

Give up hatred----return good for evil.

Give up negativism----be positive.

Give up anger----be more patient.

Give up pettiness----become mature.

Give up gloom----enjoy the beauty that is all around you.

Give up jealousy----pray for confidence.

Give up gossiping----control your tongue.

Give up sin----turn to virtue.

Give up giving up----hang in there!

Is this not more difficult than giving up a favorite food or past time? There’s more. In Isaiah 58, we learn that the fasting the Lord desires is, releasing those bound unjustly, setting free the oppressed, sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and homeless, clothing the naked, and not turning your back on your own. This can be overwhelming but Mother Teresa has always taught that we should start with just one. One hungry child, one needy family, one prisoner. We can partner with organizations that already help. Just start and do it. Then we can claim God’s promise: “You shall call, and the Lord will answer, you shall cry for help, and He will say: Here I am!” (Isaiah 58:9a)

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Choose Well

“Choose life, then, loving the Lord, your God, heeding His voice, and holding fast to Him.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20

My son loves to play games, whether board games or games online. Some are quite complicated, and I just watch him and his cousins play without understanding the rules at all. Then there are some games that are simple and fun, and I can join in. Some people think of life as a game, but the only similarity is that there are rules we have to follow, if we want to win the most important prize of all- eternal life in heaven! 

Our Lady of Fatima said to St. Jacinta Marto: “If men only knew what eternity is, they would do everything in their power to change their lives.” C.S. Lewis, one of my favorite authors, wrote in his book, “The Weight of Glory”, that we’ve never talked to mere mortals. Everyone we know, our parents, our spouses, our sisters and brothers, our children, our office mates and classmates, etc., they are not ordinary people. We talk to and deal with immortals every day of our life. 

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.....But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors,” C.S. Lewis wrote. 

How daunting to consider how flippant we are with our lives sometimes. We can waste so many precious minutes on worthless activities or conversations, throw careless hurting words at people, without thought of the impact on our immortal souls. Let us be more heedful of the choices we make each day! 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Return to Me

“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart...” Joel 2:12

How plaintive the Lord sounds, pleading with us to return to Him. It reminds me of the father of the prodigal son, waiting and longing for his son to return from his journey away from his home and family. Truly the Lord yearns for us to be close to Him. That is why He created us, to have a relationship with us. It’s not complicated. He loves us with a deep and faithful love, and He wants us to talk to Him and listen to Him. 

Sometimes we have a hard time praying, but like with many things we find hard, all we need to do is practice. We can go to the Bible and make the words our own. For Ash Wednesday, Psalm 51 is especially appropriate. 

“Have mercy on me, O God, in Your faithful goodness. In the greatness of Your compassion, wipe out my many sins and offenses against You. Thoroughly wash me clean from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me, my Father. I acknowledge how I have turned away from You and hurt You. Against You who are always forgiving and loving, have I sinned, and done what is evil in Your sight. 

“A clean heart create for me, O God, and an upright and steadfast spirit renew within me. Cast me not from Your Holy presence, and take not Your Spirit from me. Give me back the joy and the freedom of Your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim Your praise.” 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Lover of God

“Do you not know that being a lover of the world means enmity with God?” James 4:4

Is it always the case that if you love the world, you are an enemy of God? Can we not straddle both camps? Do we have to choose one or the other? Cannot we love the things this world offers, and love God as well? In the epistle of James, the author writes, “Whoever has chosen to be a friend of this world has been made into an enemy of God.” If we choose worldly ways over God’s ways, we are like adulterers, sleeping with the enemy!!! 

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, and a good time to start examining if there is anything in our life displeasing to God. Do we live according to worldly wisdom, depending on ourselves all the time and not trusting God for what we need? Are we always looking out for ourselves, selfishly ignoring the needs of those around us? Are we searching not for the true God who is holy and who wants His people holy, but for a god of our own making, a god who will tolerate our sin? 

Many saints start out as friends of the world. One of them is St. Ignatius de Loyola who “strutted about with his cape slinging open to reveal his tight-fitting hose and boots; a sword and dagger at his waist". He was vain, a womanizer and had an insatiable desire for fame and glory. He was “sensitive to insult, and he used his privileged status to escape prosecution for violent crimes”. 

During his recuperation after a cannonball shattered his right leg, he experienced a spiritual conversion which led to a call to religious life. Instead of daydreaming about fame and glory as a soldier, he thought of how to imitate the saints like Francis of Assisi. His main principle became the Jesuit motto: Ad majorem Dei gloriam (“for the greater glory of God”). 

Monday, February 24, 2020

How Great Thou Art

“Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart find favor before You, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:15

Carl Gustaf Boberg (1859-1940) was a Swedish pastor, editor, and member of the Swedish parliament. One day he and his companions were walking home from an afternoon service in Kronobäck, Sweden when a severe thunderstorm rose out of no where. They had to hurry to find shelter from the strong winds, thunder and lightning. The squall soon died down and when Boberg got home, he looked out the window over the clear bay of Mönsterås and heard church bells in the distance. There was a rainbow and birds singing. 

A perfect peace filled his heart after the fierceness of the storm that he was inspired to write the words of the wonderful hymn, “How Great Thou Art”. 

“O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder, Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made; I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, How great Thou art, How great Thou art. Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander, And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees. When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, How great Thou art, How great Thou art. Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing; Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in; That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, How great Thou art, How great Thou art. Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation, And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart. Then I shall bow, in humble adoration, And then proclaim: "My God, how great Thou art!"

How wonderful when all our experiences provoke us to contemplate how great God is! Many things happen in a day, let us not be too busy to turn our thoughts to God for He can meet us anywhere, in our peaceful moments and in the storms of our life. 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

God’s Way

“Offer no resistance to one who is evil.” Matthew 5:39

This is very difficult to obey, but I remember women offering flowers to soldiers during our People Power Revolution in EDSA in 1986. The whole world witnessed our non-violent civil resistance against the threat of the military through the CNN live coverage. Who would have imagined that offered prayers, flowers, and sandwiches, would be successful in bringing back our democracy and would inspire other countries to take the same peaceful path against tyranny? 

A few years after, the Berlin Wall was dismantled, ending the Cold War. A portion of the wall is dedicated to the Philippines in remembrance of the People Power Revolt that inspired the Germans to do the same. 

I read about a man named Daniel. Before he attended a church in Southern California, he lived in Uganda, when Idi Amin was President from 1971-1979. At that time, he was caught and tortured brutally for being a Christian. For several days at a time, a guard would hang him from his feet and whip him. One night as the guard was leaving, Daniel said, " Have a nice evening."

The guard turned back to him, and asked incredulously, "How can you say that to me? After what I have been doing to you?" Daniel then told him about Jesus, about the blood shed on the cross for him, about freedom, about how he had been forgiven and loved. A few days after that, the guard helped him escape, brought Daniel to his house, fed him and let him share about Jesus to his family. 

Jesus’ way is hard. He teaches us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. He says His Father makes His sun rise on the bad and good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. God’s ways are not the world’s ways. If we want to be His children, we have to learn His ways. 

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Dark Valley

“Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for You are at my side.” Psalm 23:4

A very close friend of ours passed away suddenly, leaving her family and friends devastated. I cannot imagine a darker valley to pass through for the husband and children she left behind. But the Shepherd I know can give grace beyond measure, and consolations beyond understanding for the weary soul. Sometimes the Lord works miracles in dark valleys. 

The life of Elizabeth Elliot is a testament to this. Her husband Jim Elliot was one of a team of five missionaries attempting to evangelize the savage Auca Indians in Ecuador. All five were killed with spears on the Curaray River while trying to befriend the Indians. 

One would think Elisabeth Elliot would run as far away from the place her husband was brutally murdered. Instead she, with her young daughter Valerie, spent two years as a missionary amongst those same Indians, sometimes living in their huts, eating their food, and learning their language and their ways. 

She wrote, “We have proved beyond any doubt that He means what he says-His grace is sufficient – nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. We pray that if any, anywhere, are fearing that the cost of discipleship is too great, they may be given a glimpse of that treasure in heaven promised to all who forsake.”

Yes, we can trust God through any dark valley. 

Friday, February 21, 2020

Deny Yourself

“Whoever wishes to come after me, must deny himself...” Mark 8:34

Deny yourself. That seems like a bad word in these times when some people applaud the idea of killing a baby just to get an Oscar award one day. This is the age of entitlement and self-fulfillment. It comes with an arrogance believing one deserves certain privileges. 

A.J. Cronin wrote that there are two freedoms. The false freedom is where one is free to do what he likes. The true freedom is where one is free to do what he ought. Thomas à Kempis, author of “The Imitation of Christ” wrote in the 15th century, “Unless thou deny thyself, thou shalt not have perfect liberty.” 

Character can’t be built without self- discipline. Great talent cannot bloom without a lot of self-denial. Ignacy Jan Paderewski, a well known pianist who also became the Prime Minister of Poland and signed the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I, once said, “Before I was a master, I was a slave.”

When Henry Sy Sr. passed away, the Chairman of SM Investments reported, “The succession was smooth, as if nothing happened; there was not even a ripple. Henry Sy Sr. and his wife Felicidad Tan Sy had raised six Henry Sys in their six children. They are all hardworking, simple-living, peace-loving and God-fearing people. They do not drive Mercedes-Benz or luxury cars, because the late Henry Sy also didn’t drive luxury cars.”

Lent will be upon us next week. What kind of freedom do we want? If we want the true freedom where we are free to do what we ought to do, we should test ourselves if we are able to deny ourselves of our excesses. Too much time wasted. Too much money spent on ourselves. Too much selfishness and selfies and self-centeredness. Too much news overload. Too much busyness and rushing around. Let us learn to slow down, deny ourselves of our excesses and listen to God’s still small voice. Wait for Him, He will speak. 

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Who are You?

“Who do you say that I am?” Mark 8:29

“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asked Peter and Peter replied that He was the Christ, the Messiah. Would we be able to answer the same? And if Jesus asked, “And who are you?”, what would our answer be? 

If we have a personal, growing relationship with Jesus, we would be able to say, “You chose me among all to be Your beloved! To be the apple of Your eye!

Thank you for answering my prayers and for keeping Your promises to me!!!"

If we know who Jesus is, we should also know who we are in God’s world. Everything God did, from the beginning of creation, was so that He could have a close relationship with us. I marvel at His patience with man! What a mess we’ve made with our world, and yet He has not given up on us! 

“Who do you say that I am?” You are my redeemer, my friend, hope-giver, promise-keeper, enemy-slayer, healer, protector, fountain of truth, teacher, and Lord. Help me to  obey Your teachings always! 

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Do You See Anything?

Do you see anything?” Mark 8:23

We should take heart from this passage in the Bible. When Jesus arrived at Bethsaida, a blind man begged Him to touch him. Jesus put spittle in the blind man’s eyes and asked, “Do you see anything?” The man said he could see people looking like trees walking. Then Jesus laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and the man saw everything clearly. 

I would think that if Jesus touched someone, he would be healed instantly, but here we have a story where He touched a blind man twice. I think this story is here as an example for us to not give up praying, to not be hesitant to pray over someone in need. How many of us are afraid of praying over someone who is sick, or in need of consolation? When was the last time we did it? Or when was the last time we prayed for someone who asked for prayers on Facebook? When I turned on my phone this morning, it was on Facebook and a friend asked for prayers because she was going to the hospital and was scared. Many said they were praying for her. 

Our world is full of troubles and so many need prayers. Let us care enough to bring our family and friends to Jesus’ attention. Let us not give up if we do not see the answer right away. “He comforts us all in our afflictions and thus enables us to comfort those who are in trouble, with the same consolation we received from Him” (2 Cor 1:4). 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

No Bread

“Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread?” Mark 8:17

It is amazing that the disciples had a hard time understanding Jesus even if they had seen miracles from his hand many times. There is one man, named George Müller, who took Jesus at His Word and witnessed God’s saving grace for years. He was a Christian evangelist in the 1800s and a founder of the Ashley Downs orphanage in Bristol, England where he took care of more than 10,000 orphans during his lifetime. 

Throughout his ministry, it was his rule never to ask for donations but to wait for God’s provision. He never went into debt even if the five homes for the orphanage cost more than £100,000 to build. The secret was that George Müller was in constant prayer, and that is how he sustained his ministry. Many times the food would arrive just in time for the meal! In one well documented instance, the children were already seated at table, George Müller led the prayers thanking God for the food. A knock on the door brought the baker in who was able to provide bread for all. Then the milkman came in who gave them milk because his cart had broken down at the orphanage’s door! 

Mûller prayed about everything, the weather, repairs needed at the orphanage, provisions, and expected God to answer every time. He did. One time, while crossing the Atlantic, Müller explained to the Captain that he needed to be in Quebec by the following afternoon. The Captain told him it would be impossible because of the fog. Müller then prayed a very simple prayer prompting the Captain to follow. Müller stopped him because of the captain’s unbelief, but also because he believed God answered his prayer. "Captain, I have known my Lord for more than fifty years and there is not one instance that I have failed to have an audience with the King. Get up, Captain, for you will find that the fog has gone." True enough, the fog had lifted and Müller was not late for his appointment. The captain became a Christian shortly afterwards.

Jesus is the same today as He was during the time of the disciples. Let us learn to approach Him and talk to Him the way George Müller did. 

Monday, February 17, 2020

All Joy

“Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials , for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3

In Beth Moore’s book, “Get Out of the Pit”, she recounts her experience in one of her frequent travels. She noticed a tall, beautiful couple get into the plane and seat themselves. Both the man and the woman looked dignified, dressed in impeccable Italian suits. As soon as the plane got off the runway, the man started shouting, startling everyone within hearing distance. The stewardess couldn’t do anything as she was strapped in herself. He screamed that he was afraid, they would all die, he wasn’t ready, so could the pilot please stop the plane. Beth Moore and all the passengers became agitated at this surprising turn of events. Then just as suddenly the man stopped his hysterical screaming and the wife acted as if nothing out of the ordinary happened. 

Sometimes we feel like shouting when our trials become too hard to bear. I know some people who like exposing their anguish on Facebook. They complain about their husbands, or an office mate giving them grief, or children who disappoint them. Saint James shares a surprising perspective when he writes, “Count it pure unadulterated joy when you are enveloped in trials of any sort. Be assured and understand that the trial brings out endurance, steadfastness, patience and perseverance. Let endurance and steadfastness have its perfect result, that you may be perfect, mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” Is this really possible? 

Yes, we can count all our trials joy, only if we have real hope and trust in Jesus. We have to seek God in our trials, confident He walks with us, and is bearing our burdens with us. This is no platitude. Test God in this. 

Sunday, February 16, 2020

If You Choose

“If you choose, you can keep the commandments; it is loyalty to do His will.” Sirach 15:15

The verse before this reads, “When God in the beginning, created man, He made him subject to his own free choice.” In the books, “The Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life” by Hannah Smith and “Spiritual Progress” by François Fénelon, they revealed that the Christian life must be lived in the will, not in the emotions. The will should be the rudder which will steer our actions, not our emotions. Many times it is the other way around, and our emotions get us into trouble because they can mislead us to make bad decisions. 

Many women get pulled by their feelings into relationships that bring much hardship. Many women today are single mothers, abandoned by irresponsible men. If instead of being deceived by their unruly feelings of being loved in return, they decided from the start that they will be responsible, see to it they act in a correct manner and trust God with the results, there will be less heartbreak. 

There will be less broken marriages if couples are not ruled by their emotions but by their will to make their relationship succeed and bloom. If they do, they can trust God to take care of their emotions. He very definitely will. 

Let us resolve not to be swayed by our emotions, but to be steered by our will into doing the right things. This is the secret to a good Christian life. 

Saturday, February 15, 2020

In Your Hand

“How many loaves do you have?" 

Mark 8:5

In the 6th chapter of Mark, Jesus feeds the 5,000 and He tells His disciples to feed them. Of course they were flabbergasted and said, "With what? It would take a small fortune to buy food for this huge a crowd!!!" We would say the same, don't you think? Here in chapter 8 of Mark, there are less people, 4000. The disciples ask the same thing, but with less incredulity. "How are we supposed to find enough food for them here in the wilderness?"

"How many loaves of bread do YOU have?" Jesus asked.

I like these passages about the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, because it shows that miracles start with what we have in our hand. What we give to God. I always remember when our little group giving the Good News in QC Jail was asked by the prison admin to prepare 200 gift bags for the inmates for Christmas. I was just as incredulous as the disciples! How would we do that? But that Christmas we were able to prepare 300 bags! And what a wonderful sight to behold the inmates' faces as they opened their bags to find a pair of shorts, food, shampoo, laundry soap, etc. They told us it was like they received 2 bags! It was more than they expected! And we have been able to do this for 10 years now with the help of many friends who generously give what is in their hand. God is able to use that and multiply it!

How many loaves do YOU have? Put it in God's hand and see miracles!

Friday, February 14, 2020

Follow Me

“My people heard not my voice, and Israel obeyed me not; So I gave them up to the hardness of their hearts; they walked according to their counsels.” Psalm 81:12-13

Here is the lament of a God who desires only our good. He is like a parent who points the right way for his child to go, but the child adamantly chooses another path. One of the greatest gifts God has given us is free will. We have the choice to listen to Him, and obey Him, or to do the opposite. 

One woman who chose a path against God was Norma McCorvey, who is more well known for her pseudonym “Jane Roe” in the infamous Roe v. Wade lawsuit that reached the U.S. Supreme Court. She challenged the Texas laws that criminalized abortion. In the 1980s, she involved herself in the abortion movement and later worked at abortion clinics. In 1995, an evangelical pro-life group, Operation Rescue, opened an office in the same building as the abortion clinic and Norma began to have conversations with the active pro-lifers. Eventually she developed friendships with them and started having serious doubts about the morality of abortion. 

It was about this time that she started going to Church and rejected her work with the abortion groups. In 1997, she started her own ministry, “Roe No More”, and in 1998, she converted to Catholicism. She continued to speak out against abortion, and worked to overturn Roe vs. Wade until she died in 2017. 

No matter how far from the right path we stray, God is always willing to take us back into His loving arms. 

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Crumbs from the Master’s Table

“Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” Mark 7:28

This is one Bible story I am not very happy about. A Syrophoenician woman went to Jesus on one occasion, fell at his feet, and begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. I assume that it was because she was not a Jew that Jesus answered the cryptic: “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children to throw it to the dogs.” 

If I was this poor woman, would I have understood what Jesus meant? It was like a puzzle, a mystery that required the right answer. Fortunately, the mother had the “missing piece” she needed. She answered, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”

Dogs? Dogs!!!! Even if Jesus meant puppies, or beloved pets of the household as some commentaries explain, it was still an insult. But this woman did not mind the rejection. She was humble, she was focused, she was persistent, she was resolved to get her daughter healed. I think before approaching Jesus, she asked questions about Him, “researched” in a way. Who was he? Was he really a healer, a miracle worker, prophet? Along with the tidbits, she learned He was a Jew, and some called Him the Messiah who came for the chosen people. That’s why she knew the “winning answer”!

In Matthew 15, we learn that she calls Him, “Son of David”, a title for the Messiah. She knew that the Messiah would come to save the chosen people, the Jews. That’s why she did not protest when He said He came to prepare a feast for His people and it was not right to give the food to the “dogs”, what the Jews usually called the Gentiles. 

Jesus said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.” Oh, happy day when our prayers are answered! Do we know how to approach Jesus? We need to be humble, focused, persistent and resolved. Ever since the early Church, the people of God prayed back to God the Words He had given them. We NEED to know God and His promises so we stand on sure ground when we pray. 

Sometimes we do not understand when God is silent, when God seems deaf to our cries. Perhaps He is trying to draw out the genuineness of our faith. Perhaps he is testing us so we learn perseverance, endurance, we learn not to give up.  

Give us, gracious Father, crumbs from Your Table, and we shall be saved. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

From Within

“There is nothing from outside a man which, by entering into him, is able to defile him. But the things which proceed from a man, these are what pollute a man.” Mark 7:15

Last Sunday I was able to listen to an interesting talk about healthy eating. No to white dead sugar, yes to living sugar in fruits, stevia and honey. No to iodized salt, or salt from polluted water. Yes to Himalayan salt or living salt. Yes to olive oil but not for frying. We tasted a really delicious soup made of malunggay, gata, salt, and ginger and a yummy brown rice salad with all sorts of vegetables and flowers. The plant based diet has been gaining many followers. I know some people who have changed their lifestyle and have been much healthier because of it. 

In today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us that if we are concerned with what we put in our mouth, we should be more concerned about what comes out of it. “From within the man,” Jesus teaches his disciples, “from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.” 

We may think we are free of these evil things Jesus listed, but He did compare murder with anger in Matthew 5. Murder begins in the heart, as with all other evil. It is good to heed what Jesus says and watch what seeds we plant in our heart every day. Let us cultivate love, generosity, kindness, peace, compassion, etc. and share these with others. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020


“I had rather one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere...” Psalm 84:11

I remember going to Disneyland in Anaheim with my siblings when we were young. We were ecstatic going from one ride to the next, one attraction to the next, for one whole day. We screamed in the Haunted Mansion, we were awed by the Pirates of the Caribbean, and we explored Main Street with wide eyes. My sister wrote in her journal that Disneyland was the happiest place on earth. When we brought our kids to Disneyland Hong Kong, our kids experienced the many wonders and delights of the place as well. There was dancing in the streets, Buzz Lightyear to take pictures with and a never ending parade of swirling characters. I was brought down to earth by a character in costume asking me, “Pilipino ba kayo?” Seemed so incongruous! He was probably so homesick!!!!

Disneyland is nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to God’s court! Nothing and no place on earth can even come close to how happy we will be when we step foot into the place God has prepared for us. There is a song that goes, “I can only imagine What my eyes would see When your face is before me, I can only imagine, I can only imagine, Surrounded by Your glory What will my heart feel? Will I dance for you, Jesus? Or in awe of You be still? Will I stand in your presence? To my knees will I fall, Will I sing hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all?” 

Each and everyone of us, no exception, God made us for heaven, and sometimes we experience homesickness like that Filipino in Disneyland. We know there’s something more than this life, but sometimes in our longing for heaven, we fill our life with material things, with our career, with one thing after another. Let us search for the One who knows us best, who loves us best, and who knows the way to our heavenly home. 

Monday, February 10, 2020

A House for God

“I have truly built You a princely house, a dwelling where You may abide forever.” 1 Kings 8:13

Was Solomon truly able to build God a princely house? I suspect that no matter how beautiful the Jerusalem temple was, it was still not fitting for the Ark of the Covenant. And perhaps that is why the Ark of the Covenant is nowhere to be found today, except perhaps in movies. 

Since the time of Solomon a great many amazing cathedrals, basilicas and churches have been built for God. There is the majestic Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Cologne Cathedral, Notre Dame de Paris, Chartres, Sagrada Familia, Santiago de Compostela, etc. But one wonders if God would not rather be pleased with a little thatched hut in a barrio if it was filled with worshippers singing beautiful songs raised in praise to Him. Many of the beautiful churches in Europe are full of tourists taking pictures. Not many people take the time to pray, or think about the God who gave the magnificent gifts to the architects, sculptors, painters, stonemasons who fashioned these beautiful buildings. 

The Ark of the Covenant contained the two stone tablets on which was inscribed the Ten Commandments given to Moses. This is the Word given by God to the Israelites when He made a covenant with them. He gave His Word to us as well and He wants to have a covenant relationship with each one of us. 

How much do we value God’s Word? Like Solomon, can we make a temple for God’s living and active Word by finding a place for it in our hearts and in our lives? 

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Salt of the Earth

“You are the salt of the earth.” Matthew 5:13

If Jesus came today, would He call us the salt of the earth? In Jesus’ day, salt was so essential that Roman soldiers received part of their payment in salt, thus the Latin word “salarium” from which “salary” is derived. Even today, salt is found in almost every kitchen. 

These days we have the refrigerator to preserve the freshness of foods. In ancient days, they packed meats with salt to prevent it from rotting. In the same way, we as Christians are called to be salt to prevent this world from corruption and evil. Are we doing our part by proclaiming the gospel, being a force on the side of good, and loving one another in concrete ways? 

Another characteristic of salt is when we eat salty foods, we get very thirsty. As Christians we should live so that others who witness our lives will say that they want what we have, and they thirst for the living water of Christ. 

The most important use of salt is of course to add flavor to foods. Without salt, our food would be tasteless and bland. What should a Christian add to the world? Each of us has a purpose. We need to ask if we are accomplishing ours and impacting our small corner of the world. 

Saturday, February 08, 2020

One Precious Life

“With all my heart, I seek you.” Psalm 119:10

We have only one precious life to live. Will we give it back to the One who loves us best, or will we live it with no concern for the purpose for which we were made? We may have a difficult life, but we can still live it for God. We celebrate today the Feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita. She is the first Saint from Sudan and was canonized in the year 2000 by Pope John Paul II. 

Josephine was born into a prestigious and prosperous family but when she was about 7 to 9 years old, she was abducted by Arab slave traders and was sold and re-sold five times in the markets of El Obeid and Khartoum. She was beaten by her masters, and from one of those beatings, could not move from her bed for a month. A total of 114 intricate patterns were tattooed on her body while her mistress was watching with a whip in hand. 

The Italian Vice Council who bought her, brought her to Italy and there she became nanny to a young girl named Mimmina. When the mother needed to meet her husband in Sudan, Josephine and Mimmina were left in the care of the Canossian sisters in Venice. There, Josephine first learned of Jesus and was enamored. "Those holy mothers instructed me with heroic patience and introduced me to that God who from childhood I had felt in my heart without knowing who He was,” she wrote. 

When Mimmina’s mother came to take them away, Josephine refused to leave, and an Italian court had to intervene. Slavery was outlawed in Sudan before Josephine’s birth and Italian law did not recognize slavery. Josephine chose to remain with the Sisters, entered the novitiate and took her vows. Her life was marked by a heart for missions, and an ever-present gentle smile. 

When asked what she thought of those who kidnapped, flogged her and kept her a slave, Josephine said, “If I were to meet them, I would kneel and kiss their hands, for if that did not happen, I would not be a Christian and religious today.” 

One life to live. Do we give it to God? 

Friday, February 07, 2020

Good Example

What should I ask for?" Mark 6:24

This is the question Salome asks her mother Herodias, after she dances for King Herod and his guests. Herod was so pleased with her performance that he promised to give her ANYTHING she asked for, "even to half of my kingdom!"

Salome was only 12 (according to a Jewish historian) but she must have been sultry and seductive in her movement. I can't imagine a jaded man like Herod being captivated by a cutesy, childish dance.

"What should I ask for?" The child asks her mother, echoing children throughout the ages, in need of guidance and wisdom. And instead of wise counsel, what did she get? Herodias instructs her to ask for John the Baptist's head!

Salome hurries back to Herod and 

demanded, "I want the head of John the Baptist, RIGHT NOW, ON A TRAY!" She did her mother better! This just shows that when we teach a wrong thing, it escalates. That's the nature of sin. Perhaps that's why it says in Exodus 20:5: "I, the Lord your God, visit the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation..."

If we want the best for our children, we should dig up any seeds or roots of sin in our lives, so that it will not grow into a shrub or tree in the lives of our children! We should always strive to be good examples. 

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Take Nothing on the Journey

"...take nothing on the journey..." Mark 6:8

When St. Francis of Assisi heard the gospel on taking nothing for the journey on Feb. 24, 1208, he was overjoyed. I can't imagine anyone being overjoyed at Jesus' instructions to the Twelve Apostles to go out preaching but to take nothing but a walking stick! But Saint Francis had been feeling the pull of God in dreams and visions, and he felt that this was the clear direction he had been seeking. Although he had been a rich young man, with a taste for luxurious clothes and good food, he had renounced his possessions to the dismay of his father, and embarked on begging for food and for stones to rebuild a small church.

Like Saint Francis, we too are pilgrims on a journey. We take different paths, but we go to the same God. We will all learn eventually that we need to take nothing on our journey. Everything will be left behind. Some learn this later than others. I have to confess that I am accumulating many things in my pilgrimage. I do not travel light. But sometimes a glimpse of someone dying, leaving with nothing, leaving the same way we all came to earth, gives me pause to think. Truly I need to learn to relinquish my hold on possessions, to make my baggage lighter and lighter.

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose." (Jim Elliot, from his diary, Oct. 28, 1949)

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Lack of Faith

“He was amazed at their lack of faith.” Mark 6:6

When Jesus visited Nazareth, where He grew up, He faced rejection. He was not able to perform any miracles, apart from curing a few sick people. He was amazed at their lack of faith! 

Contrast this with the story in Matthew chapter 8, when He said, "Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” A centurion had come to Him asking for help for his servant who was paralyzed. When Jesus said He would go to his home, the centurion replied, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”

Sometimes, like the people of Nazareth, Jesus becomes too familiar. We grew up reciting the prayers, learning the bible stories in school, going to mass every Sunday. We did not really develop a relationship with Him when what Jesus most of all wants is a close relationship with us. He wants to journey with us every day, through good times and bad times. Let us not take Him for granted, like the people in His hometown. 

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Your Faith has Healed You

“Daughter, your faith has healed you." Mark 5:34

The story of this woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years can be discouraging. She spent everything she had for doctors and medicine and she was not getting better. In fact she was getting worse! I know so many people who have been sick a long time. In fact I am one of them! I have Pemphigus Vulgaris, an auto-immune disorder, very strange and very uncommon. And now, 8 weeks after my surgery, I am still breathless, and still need healing for my lungs. 

Sometimes I feel like that veiled woman in a crowd in search ofJesus. "If only I can get close to Him. If only I had enough faith." This woman was very fortunate in that she managed to touch Jesus' garments and she was healed instantly. Jesus looked around at the crowd surrounding Him, and asked, "Who touched me?" What is important to me in this story is that Jesus looked for her. For 12 years, perhaps she was feeling neglected by God, insignificant. How many times do we pray, "Do you care, God? Do You know what I am going through?" This is what our enemy wants, that we think God does not care, God does not know what we are going through. In this battle of the mind, we need to fight for the truth.

God does care. We matter to Him. Every single one of us. We are loved. That is what we want to know in our heart. "Who touched me?" is the cry of a God who wants to connect with us. Faith is our connection. "Daughter, your faith has healed you," Jesus said. And so with us. Our faith that whatever we go through, whether 12 years or not, whether it is about healing, or broken relationships, or lack of money or whatever, God walks with us. God is there, loving us whatever we are going through. He will never allow things to happen to us that is not good for our character. That will not make us bloom. In the next story of Jairus and his daughter, Jesus says, "Do not be afraid. just trust me."

Yes Lord, I trust You. You will work everything in my life for my good, because I love You and I trust You! (Romans 8:28)

Monday, February 03, 2020

Dwelling Among Tombs

"...he had his dwelling among the tombs." Mark 5:3


Jesus encountered many unclean spirits and people who needed to be delivered from them. Here in the 5th chapter of Mark, Jesus and his disciples were met by a man taking refuge in the tombs who had hundreds and hundreds of evil spirits tormenting him. Even if he was chained, the man could break out of them and smash his shackles to pieces. Night and day, he would scream and hurl himself at the rocks. Jesus sent the two thousand demons into a large herd of pigs. The swine rushed headlong into the sea where they were destroyed. 

Do we believe there are demons abroad today? I know there are. And they do not hide in tombs. My husband conducted a bible study for a family living in an exclusive neighborhood. One of the daughters needed an exorcism by a priest. Unfortunately she did not want to be exorcised. She wanted to continue with her sinful ways, leaving her husband and family for someone else, and consorting with people who could only do her harm. Although outwardly she was glamorous and popular, in a way she was much like the man in the tombs. She liked her chains and continued to smash herself against rocks. 

In 1 Timothy 4:1, we can read what Paul wrote: "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons." 

In James 4:7, we can read, "Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."

And finally, in 1 Peter 5:8, we find, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour." 

Yes, unclean spirits are abroad today, and we must not allow them a foothold in our lives. Where there is hatred, unforgiveness, selfishness, envy, lust, promiscuity,  anger, etc., we give permission for our enemy to lay a finger on us. Lord, may I always be vigilant. May I keep my eyes on You. May I stay away from any darkness or chains of bondage, and live in Your wonderful light.