Sunday, May 31, 2020

More of You

“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” Acts 2:1-4

My sister Peggy and brother-in-law Charlie attended the Golden Jubilee of the Catholic Charismatic renewal in Rome in 2017. Representatives from the Evangelical and Pentecostal churches were present as well. After all, the renewal started in Duquesne University in February 1967, during a student retreat, when they invited a Pentecostal to speak about what happened in the Book of Acts and the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. During that retreat, God poured down His Holy Spirit and students began experiencing Him in a new way. Patti Gallagher Mansfield's face glowed like Moses after she encountered God's presence in the upper chapel. Some spoke in tongues. Some cried. Some laughed. Some felt a burning sensation. Some, like David Mangan, experienced little explosions going on in his body.


Previous to that, the charismatic Pentecostal way of worship made its way dramatically to mainline Protestant churches, and then from there to the Catholics. After that Duquesne weekend, God's 'current of grace', as Pope Francis calls it, travelled around the world and changed millions of believers' lives and faith. In unity, with one body, great things are accomplished. There is more that unites us than separates us. We have to learn from one another's strengths, and recognize the gifts God wants to give us. The Holy Spirit is not a spirit of uniformity, but unity in diversity. One body, one Spirit. 

Lord, may we desire more of Your Spirit. May we not be complacent with what we have right now, but may we always want more of You! 

Saturday, May 30, 2020

A Hope and a Future

“There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.” John 21:25

Ever since this line was written by St. John the Apostle, the youngest of Jesus’ twelve disciples, so much more has been added to what Jesus did, and is continuing to do in  men’s lives. He can take a messed up life and turn it into a masterpiece. Jesus has changed many a man and woman from a worm into a butterfly. He is not a magician, but He can turn a stony heart into a compassionate one full of forgiveness and love. The key is rejecting sin, accepting Him and following Him. With the Lord, every life is of intrinsic worth, every one a diamond in the rough. He will not turn anyone away. There is hope for everyone, even a man who murders without compunction, steals millions from the government treasury, curses and lies with every breath. 

Who is not interested in finding riches? I wake up every morning because I know I will encounter the one true Saviour, the One who can turn the dross of hardship and trials into gold. He is the only one who can give meaning and purpose to our lives. Even if what is happening in the world right now doesn’t make sense, if we offer all our doubts, fears and questions to Jesus, He can assure us with His eternal words of hope. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) 

Every morning when I wake up, I read the timeless words in the Bible, and discover how “the New Testament is concealed in the Old, just as the Old Testament is revealed and fulfilled by the New.” (St. Augustine) If we do not study the Bible, how will we discover the precious things hidden in it? I’m not very intelligent. Yesterday I was listening to a webinar about how to shift our retail strategies post Covid 19 pandemic. I have to confess that all the talk about omnichannels went over my head and I had to stop listening. If our business is to survive this pandemic, it will be hugely because God is continuing to take care of it the same way He has been the past 50 plus years. 

And every morning after reading God’s words and just letting it stay in my head for a while, I put my pen to paper, and I am amazed that the Lord can use me and my gifts. This is what Jesus continues to do in this world. Let us put our lives, our dreams, our plans, our gifts and talents, and our challenges, in His hands. He is more than able. “If you can?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” (Mark 9:23)

Friday, May 29, 2020

Far as the East is from the West

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He put our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12

Seventy times seven times. That's what Jesus answered to the question, "How often must I forgive?" Seven is the number of completion, and seventy times seven means without limit. This is how the Lord forgives. We get hurt all the time. A careless word. A stupid joke. A boss who takes credit for your idea. A classmate who prefers someone else to you. We can practice being forgiving and merciful every single day. It's a decision, but it's also a miracle of grace. 

The story of Matt Swatzell and Erik Fitzgerald is an amazing story of superhuman forgiveness. Matt was driving home after a 24 hour shift as a firefighter. He was very tired, and very sleepy. He woke up to a crash that changed his life. The crash killed June Fitzgerald who had been driving the car Matt hit, and her unborn child. 

June's husband, Erik, was a full time Pastor. “You forgive as you’ve been forgiven,” said Pastor Erik in his grief and pain. “It wasn’t an option. If you’ve been forgiven, then you need to extend that forgiveness.” Because of that openness, Erik and Matt forged a friendship that has lasted, and Matt has been able to build a good life instead of one disturbed by demons of guilt and regret. 

“This has been just as healing for me too,” said Pastor Erik of his relationship with Matt. “I’ve taught on forgiveness and I know that forgiveness is not so much for the other person but for yourself.” 

Lord, is there someone I need to forgive? Pour down upon me Your abundant, overflowing, healing grace that I may be worthy to be called Your child. May I forgive just as You have generously forgiven me. 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Fullness of Joys

"You will show me the path to life, fullness of joys in Your presence..." Psalm 16:11

It's easy for me to speak of the joy of the Lord. Ever since I was young, I would pray, "Lord, treat me gently", and He has for the most part. One day I was before the Blessed Sacrament during a singles' retreat in our community. God gave me a vision, my first and only one. He showed me a beautiful garden and Jesus and I were walking on the path. He said, "I am the gardener here. I take care of all these plants. I prune each and every one of them." 

"I will show you a plant I do not prune," He continued gently, and He took me to a decaying, ugly, dying stump of a tree. He was in effect telling me that He had to prune me, He could not treat me gently all the time. In order to bloom, Jesus had to cut off what was not pleasing to Him.


Sometimes we do not understand what God allows in our life. Sometimes it seems just too hard. Some of our suppliers in our family business have kidney disease and they have so much to deal with. They always needs dialysis and sometimes the doctors have to surgically create an access to remove and return their blood during hemodialysis. They undergo a lot of pruning regularly. I see them and the families that care for them as gorgeous, magnificent plants in Jesus' garden. The path to life to fullness of joys in Jesus' presence requires that we see the eternal invisible with the eyes of faith. 

Lord, help us to see with Your eyes. Your pruning brings life for it cuts off the dead places in us, and allows for new growth. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

God’s Ways

“I gave them your Word...because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.” John 17:14

Here we have it, from Jesus’ own mouth. We DO NOT BELONG IN THIS WORLD. We certainly act like we do. When we travel, and stay in a hotel room or Airbnb, do we move the furniture around, hang stuff on the walls, put hooks in the bathroom, get rid of the TV and buy a bigger one? Do we get a nice mattress because the one in the room is too soft or too hard? Do we replace the leaking shower head? Not likely. We wouldn’t because the place isn’t ours and we are only going to be there a short time.

Our time on earth is also supposed to be a way station, a pass through, a pilgrim’s path. For the Lord, it is but a blink of an eye. For us, it certainly doesn’t feel like it. For some of us, this quarantine has gone on interminably. And it’s only been two months. Was it enough time to get a change of outlook? A reconfiguring of how we see our lives? I am sure this worldwide pandemic that has changed our world is not an accident. God has a purpose for it. I’m not wise enough to know what, but St. Paul said in Romans 8:28 that we can know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

All things work together. That phrase ‘work together’ is just one word in the Greek, “synergei”. It’s where we get the English word “synergy”, which means “the interaction or the combined power of a group of things, organizations, or substances, when working together is greater than the total effect by each working separately”. Whew! 

Our lives are in God’s hands. Our businesses, or jobs, our families, our country, our economy, our world. It may seem devastating right now, even hopeless, but God sees things in an entirely different way. In Isaiah 55:8-9, our Heavenly Father declares: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” We just need to trust in a loving, faithful, good God who sees things differently, and wants the best for us. 

Sometimes when something goes wrong with a gadget, we push a button and close it down. Maybe the whole world world needed a reset or a reboot! We trust in You Lord! Help us to see the bigger picture like You do. Help us to see that we do not belong in this world and there is always something better waiting for us!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020


“And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to You.” John 17:11

A popular meme I read several times on Viber and Facebook goes: “The Feast of the Ascension is the day Jesus started to work from home.” 

In the 1st book of Acts, verses 6-11, we read about Jesus’ rise to heaven: Then they gathered around Him and asked Him, “Lord, are You at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After Jesus said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” 

After Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, He showed Himself on different occasions to many, many people in the 40 days before his ascension to Heaven. Most probably, not all occasions of His encounters were recorded. He showed Himself to Mary and the other women, to the two disciples on their way to Emmaus, to the disciples on numerous occasions, and then to 5000 people all at once. Then the disciples were eye witnesses of Him rising into the clouds! I would have liked to see that! But it would have been heart wrenching at the same time. Never to see Jesus again, never to be in His comforting, radiant presence. Never to be able to ask Him questions and to hear His answers.

But that is precisely why Jesus had to leave. So He could send His Spirit to be with each of us. Then He could be with us always until the end of time. We could always have His comforting, radiant presence about us. We can always ask Him questions and hear His answers. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20) “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)

Monday, May 25, 2020

Take Courage

“In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” John 16:33

There can be no doubt that trouble is part and parcel of our life on earth. When I was young, I asked God to treat me gently. It was my constant prayer. He answered that prayer until He showed me that if He did not prune me, His plans for me would not come to fruition. I remember clearly when He said during my prayer time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, “If you are willing to be pruned, I will give you Luigi as a husband.” I prayed for 3 days, in wonder. Does God do this? Did I really hear Him say that? Finally, after 3 days, I answered yes. And a couple of years after, Luigi and I were married. 

The pruning did not come right away, but several years afterward I was beset with persistent mouth sores that we could not find a cure for. Several doctors and treatments after, we learned I had Pemphigus Vulgaris, a rare autoimmune disease. Thank God my blisters only broke out in the lining of my mouth, and not all over my skin! This condition occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks proteins in the upper layers of the skin. Then a few years after that I learned I had Thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder in which my body makes an abnormal form or inadequate amount of hemoglobin. And then I suffered from Deep Vein Thrombosis, and Pulmonary Embolism, which eventually led to my needing open heart surgery last December to remove calcified blood clots. So one may say I have certainly had my share of troubles! 

Yesterday, I attended a virtual prayer meeting led by my brother-in-law. The theme was “Faith that isn’t Troubled by Troubles”. That is what we want, isn’t it? That when we have troubles, our faith will not be shaken, we will not be anxious, but continue to anchor our life on God. If we want that, we need the troubles to test us, and God will use the troubles to produce in us good fruit. 

In the first chapter of the book of James, we read, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Well, I certainly am still immature and lacking so many things, but I recognize the grace of God in my life when I encounter it. Last December, in my hospital room, His grace was so palpable, I was devoid of anxiety at my coming open heart surgery. I felt I was wrapped in His grace and mercy. I had no fears at all, I could “laugh at the days to come”, like the woman described in Proverbs 31. 

Today, I continue to recuperate. I am stronger but my lungs still need the help of oxygen. I get tired quickly, and have to walk up the stairs very slowly. God has a sense of humor. There are so many recuperating with me, having to stay home as well! I continue to persevere, and hope in the Lord, and trust in His promises. “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12) Troubles come and go, but the goodness of the Lord is forever! 

Sunday, May 24, 2020


“And behold, I am with you always...” Matthew 28:20

We must nurture our gift of faith, like a gardener takes care of his garden. The enemy likes to plant weeds, and we must not allow those unruly, fast growing weeds of doubt, anxiety, or despair, take over our garden. God said He will be with us in our journey, and if we believe, and trust, and hope, we will see the riches of His glorious inheritance even while we are here on earth. 

God was riding in a particular subway train on the morning of January 10, 1948, when a man named Marcel Sternberger boarded the 9:09. While on the train Marcel decided on the spur of the moment to visit a sick friend, and changed to ride the subway for Brooklyn. After visiting his friend, he then boarded a Manhattan-bound subway for his Fifth Avenue office. 

Although the train was crowded, a man sitting by the door suddenly left, and Marcel took his spot. The young man seated beside him was reading a Hungarian newspaper, and Marcel who usually did not talk to strangers, asked in Hungarian, “I hope you don’t mind if I glance at your paper.” This started a conversation, and Marcel learned that the man with sad eyes was named Bela Paskin, and that he was captured by the Russians during WWII and made to bury the German dead. After the war, he went back to his hometown in Debrecen, to look for his wife and family. His old neighbors told him his whole family was dead. “The Nazis took them and your wife to Auschwitz.” Heartbroken, he managed to immigrate to the US in October 1947, three months before Marcel met him on the subway. 

While Bela Paskin was speaking, Marcel felt his story was ringing some bells. A few days ago he had met a lonely young woman at the home of a friend and she had also lived in Debrecen. She was captured and brought to Auschwitz, and her relatives were all killed in the gas chambers. After liberation, she was brought to America in 1946 on the first boat for displaced persons. Marcel was so affected by her story that he had written her name down in his address book, intending to invite her to dinner to meet his family. He asked Bela, “Was your wife’s name Marya?”

He turned pale. “Yes!” he answered. “How did you know?” Marcel suggested, “Let’s get off the train”. They got off and Marcel led the man who looked as if he was about to faint to a phone booth. It seemed hours before Marya Paskin answered. “Try to be calm,” Marcel urged Bela. “Something miraculous is about to happen to you. Here, take this telephone and talk to your wife!”

The man started mumbling hysterically so Marcel decided to just bring him to where Marya lived. “Providence has brought us together,” Bela said afterward. “It was meant to be.”

Didn’t the grand weaver make sure Marcel would ride that particular train and sit in that particular seat? He also planned that Marcel would meet Marya a few days before, and that he would be so affected by her poignant story, he would write down her name, number and address. How many times has God journeyed with us in our life? “His name shall be called Emmanuel’ (which means, God with us)” (Mt 1:23) Trust in God and His promises. He will always bring us through whatever situation in life we find ourselves in.

Saturday, May 23, 2020


Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. (John 16:23)

Unlike other religions or beliefs, Christianity is first and foremost about relationships. We cannot be a Christian without having a connection, a loving bond with Jesus Christ, and with brothers and sisters in the faith. 

We cannot use a person’s name to receive favors without really knowing that person. If I was the daughter of the King, then I could go in and out of the Palace, and eat the good food in the kitchen without an invitation. If I was the daughter of the owner of a multi billion corporation, I could ask to use the company jet or helicopter. 

Jesus told His followers that if we know Him, the Son of the King of the Universe, we can ask things in His name and the King, His Father will grant it. Whatever? Not all my prayers are answered, so ‘whatever’ does not mean anything at all. To ask in Jesus’ name means because we have a relationship, Jesus and I, I know what to ask. 

In the chapter before, John 15:1–8, Jesus gives a clearer explanation to what He means: “Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

It is plain that we need to remain in Jesus, abide in Him, be close to Him, connected to Him, that we will understand Him. Only then can whatever we ask of His Father will be granted. St. Therese of Lisieux, said “God gives me whatever I want, because I want whatever He gives.” 

1 John 5:14-15 says, “And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him.” We can only know His will if we continue to have a closer and closer relationship with Him.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Turned to Joy

“When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world.” John 16:21

I was 38 years old when I was pregnant with Joshua. Back then, 25 years ago, 38 was considered “old” to be pregnant, and my pregnancy could have been complicated. One day, I became worried because the baby was making odd little consecutive “coughs”, and I prayed that he was all right inside. It turned out that Joshua had the hiccups! I did not know that babies could have hiccups! God reassured me then, “You will know how much I love you when you hold your baby in your arms.” Mothers experience many anxieties, pains and inconveniences, during pregnancy, and while giving birth, but truly, there is no joy comparable to holding your baby in your arms! 

Jesus uses the picture of a pregnant woman in the throes of childbirth to give the apostles an idea of what is in store for them. They will have anguish and suffering while ‘giving birth’ to this new way of life of following Christ. We too can relate to this imagery, as in our life as well, we cannot escape pain. It is part of growth, part of maturing, part of learning, in different stages and seasons of our existence. It is inseparable from God’s design. Just as Jesus suffered, and died, to bring about the greatest good for mankind, so our pains and sorrows, our strivings, have meaning and purpose as well. 

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24) Sometimes we cannot understand God’s plans, but if we trust and follow His words, there is always a reward, our labors will be turned into joy. 

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Grief Into Joy

“ will grieve, but your grief will become joy.” John 16:20

Yesterday, I woke up to the sad but joyous news of Ravi Zacharias’ passing. He was to me, a “lion of God”, and I will forever be grateful for all I have learned from him. I say joyous news, because he is for certain with Jesus now. After all the years of excruciating pain from his back which he did not take painkillers for, preferring to keep his mind sharp, he is free of all pain and suffering. I enjoyed his talks which were always peppered with stories, poignant, funny, memorable stories. 

I listen to the Youtube recordings of Ravi Zacharias a lot. It is fascinating how he makes God’s message riveting and I have no doubt many have been convinced to investigate Christianity because of him and his ministry. He liked to come to the Philippines because he had many friends here, and loved our macapuno icecream. He was here just a few months ago.

One of Ravi’s most compelling stories is what happened to Hien Pham, his interpreter when he spoke to the troops in Vietnam back when he was 25 years old. After Vietnam fell, Hien was accused of working for the CIA and incarcerated. He was forbidden to read anything but writings of Marx and Engels in Vietnamese or French. He was indoctrinated that there is no God day after day. One night he decided, “Tomorrow I am going to live as if there is no God.”

The next day he was assigned to clean the dirty, smelly latrines. He covered his mouth and nose as he mopped up the toilets. As he was about to throw out one bucket, he noticed a piece of paper in English. He surreptitiously cleaned it and put it in his pocket. That night when all was quiet, he took it out and read it. It was a page from Romans 8: “And we know that all things work together for good for them that love God.” No verse was more relevant for him that day and he fell to his knees. The next day he volunteered to clean the latrines again. Each day he would find a page from the Bible, wash it and read it eagerly at night for his devotions. It turns out the Commander had been given a Bible and he would tear the pages out and use it as toilet paper!

When Hien was eventually released, he and 53 other people decided to build a boat and escape. A few days before they were about to leave, four fully armed Viet Cong arrived and interrogated him. He insisted he had no plans of escaping. When the four left, he asked forgiveness from God for the lie and promised to tell the truth if they came again. 

A few hours before he and his companions were to board the boat, the four Vietcong came and asked him again, “You’re trying to escape, aren’t you?” “Yes,” Hien Pham admitted, “Are you going to kill me?” “No,” they whispered, “we want to go with you!”

So all fifty-eight escapees set out. In the high seas, there was a storm and the boat almost capsized but the four Vietcong were the best mariners they could have wanted and because of them, they all safely reached Thailand. 

When Hien Pham visited Ravi Zacharias in his home, Hien said during dinner, “You know you always think you’re going to manage it your own way. It never works. The most important thing is to find intimacy with God, and He will guide you and take you through safely in your journey as you walk hand and hand with Him. When everything comes together, you have wonder, truth, love, and security. That’s what gives life meaning, and you’ll find only God is big enough to do that for you.” #ThankyouRavi

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Lead Me

"They were to seek God, yes, to grope for Him..." Acts 17:27

A curious word, GROPE. In other translations we read, "feel their way toward Him", "reach out for Him", or "feel after Him". I remember the story of the blind men and the elephant. They wanted to know what an elephant was and each one of them would grope a part of the animal. One felt the tail and thought the elephant was like a snake, the other the tusk, the other the trunks of its legs, and they all thought differently of what an elephant was like. We are like those blind men in every way, trying to grope after God and coming up with our own versions of God UNLESS, and this is a big UNLESS, we are guided by the animal trainer around the elephant. And who's the animal trainer? The Holy Spirit of course!

In this chapter of the Bible, Paul is preaching in the Areopagus, a place where people make public lectures, the highest court in Athens. He was standing before the Council because they were very curious about his ideas and his beliefs. Some, not all, became believers. We are all created by God and in Ecclesiastes 3:11, it is written that He has put eternity in our heart. I believe this means, we will always be restless, we will never be satisfied, unless we find Him! So its OK to continue to grope, to feel our way to God. The full sentence is, "They were to seek God, yes, to grope for Him and perhaps eventually to find Him- though He is really not far from any one of us." All beauty, all truth leads to the God of the Universe. 

Holy Spirit, lead me, guide me, so I will find You, the true eternal God!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020


“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Acts 16:30

Paul and Silas were imprisoned, and when they started singing to the Lord and worshipping Him, a severe earthquake opened the prison doors and their chains broke open. The jailer who was instructed to guard them well, almost killed himself when he thought they had escaped. Paul and Silas said, “Do no harm to yourself; we are all here.” Trembling with fear, the jailer rushed in to the innermost cell he had placed them, and asked, “What must I do to be saved?”

This story in the Bible reminds me of 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. 

We may not be imprisoned, but many people are shut in worlds full of fear and anxiety, despair and unforgiveness. If we are given the opportunity to be a witness of Christ’s love, hope and peace, let us not pass it up. 

Lord, may we be faithful to Your calling. May we live in such a way as to show You that we know You, love You and obey You. May others who know us, know as well that we are Your servants. 

Monday, May 18, 2020

The Better Way

"A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, a worshiper of God, listened, and the Lord opened her heart..." Acts 16:14

I can imagine Lydia listening to Paul eagerly, drinking in his words. She was already a worshiper of the true God, and He opened her heart to receive Paul's words, to accept them, to respond to them. The message found a place in her heart.

It's easy to see how Lydia would open her heart and follow Jesus after Paul spoke to her. He was obviously a charismatic speaker. But how about others? Why did they decide to follow?

How did Christianity grow from Lydia, the first Christian convert in Europe, living a clandestine, persecuted way of life, to being the legal religion under Constantine the Great? A miracle? Most certainly. There are always miracles for those who believe.

But in sociologist Rodney Stark's book, The Rise of Christianity, he proposes that "the way" provided a better life for its followers. There were more women followers because women were honored and respected, unlike their low status in the pagan world. He cites that "loving one another" and helping each other attracted many followers.

"Amidst the epidemics and fires, and other disasters that beleaguered

the Greco-Roman cities, Christian communities were a stronghold of mutual aid, which resulted in a survival rate far greater than that

of the pagans. In the meantime, voluntary martyrdom, especially a generation 

after the death of Christ, reinforced the commitment of the Christian rank and file." Rodney Stark

Do our actions attract others to our way of life as Christians, the way the first Christians did?

Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Spirit of Truth

“My Father will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth...” John 14:16

In these days of confusion and unclarity, I often think of my parents and wonder what they would have done to solve the many challenges of this amazing time. My father passed away just a year ago in May. He was a very innovative man, with lots of ideas. My mom was enterprising, so industrious, and persevering. I miss them both so much. But they did not leave us empty handed. They left us a thriving business with a lot of potential and great promise.

I suppose when Jesus left His disciples, they were confused and did not know what to do at first. But just as our parents left us a gift, Jesus did not forsake His disciples without leaving them a lot of wise words and the most precious of all, the largesse of the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus said in John 16:7, “It is better for you that I go.” What can be better than Jesus beside them 24/7? What can be more preferable to Jesus walking preaching, healing people, loving them? Believe it or not, Jesus not being on the earth! That’s what He said in the 16th chapter of John. “It is much better for you that I go, (it is profitable, expedient, it is for your good, it is for your advantage that I leave you),” Jesus said to the disciples because they were filled with grief. “Unless I go away, the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you, (will not have close fellowship with you, will not be able to partner with you). But if I go, I will send Him to you.”

I can see that if Jesus were still walking the earth, I would have to go where He was to speak to Him, to ask Him about what to do about this pandemic, what to do about opening or not opening our stores in the malls when our sales staff might be in danger of getting sick, and have no public transportation to get to the malls, etc. Can you imagine the crowds around Him, clamoring for His attention? 

Instead I can be in my nightclothes, and just ask Him from wherever I am. I can read the Bible and the Spirit can illuminate certain passages for me. I can pray in the Spirit for people I don’t even know because the Spirit knows them and their problems. And the Holy Spirit can speak to a trillion people all at the same time. The Spirit is more omnipresent than the internet or TV or radio because the Spirit can go where those are forbidden or censored. 

Yes Jesus is present in a more powerful way today. He is IN us! And because He is IN us, like the Avengers, we can be more powerful if we work together, pray together, fast together!

Let us not waste this precious gift of the Spirit by belittling it, or not being aware that we have Him in us. Jesus said in Luke 10:19, “I have given you authority…to overcome all the power of the enemy.”

Saturday, May 16, 2020

On the Side of Victory

“If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” John 15:20

If we were to pick sides, we would rather be on the side of victory, true victory. On one hand, there are all these people attacking the Church, persecuting the Church, insulting the Church, throughout history, in different corners of the world.  There was Nero who invented all sorts of barbaric torture for the early Christians, making them human torches. The persecution continues today, and there are many unknown martyrs in different parts of the world. Persecution is severe in North Korea, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, Nigeria, and many more countries. Christian churches are being burned to the ground, homes destroyed, people beheaded for their beliefs. I read a lot of blogs. Sometimes blogs are taken down because people attack the blogger for what they believe in. One lady just said that she wanted to dress modestly because she wanted to follow what it says in the Bible. She got so many acidic comments! I've also seen horrible insults under YouTube videos of pastors preaching the word of God. So much hatred! But that is so trivial compared to organizations dedicated to eradicating Christianity that they are willing to kill young children or train them to kill. 80 % of religious intolerance in the world is directed against Christians according to the study conducted by the Intl. Society for Human Rights.

But just as Nero’s systematic oppression of the followers of Christ made them stronger and more fervent, so today where there is persecution, there is also more growth in the number of Bible believing Christians. According to Ravi Zacharias who used to travel all over, Iran has one of the fastest growing Christian churches in the world!

On the winning side, we have Jesus Christ, who allowed Himself to be crucified so His followers would have not only fullness of life but eternal life. Before He died, He prophesied that He would rise up on the third day (Matthew 27:62-64). It may surprise some to know that there is solid historical evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. The proof is so strong that serious historians of all stripes, even atheists, concede the empty tomb, and the appearance of Jesus after his death. This is why the Christian church was established and grew in spite of the persecution. 

One shrewd Jewish businessman got baptized a Catholic after staying with a Borgia Pope in the Vatican and doing business with the Vatican bank . He was asked why he was becoming a Catholic after witnessing all the scandals and corruption. “I'm a businessman,” he answered, “and I know one thing for sure: no earthly business that stupid or corrupt could possibly last fourteen weeks;  yours has lasted fourteen centuries.  It's a miracle;  I'm convinced!"

Our Church and our faith, and even God is attacked today. But as Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle urges, let us stay calm. “Be fools for Christ. God is the Savior. We do not need to save God. It is God who will save us."

Friday, May 15, 2020

Love as Jesus Loves

Jesus said to his disciples: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:12-13)

How do we make the call to love one another REAL in our lives? Before our father died last year on this very day, May 15, we were able to tell him we loved him, that he was never alone, and we would do everything we could to take care of him. Daddy also told us he loved us many times. 

In the same way, before Jesus was crucified, he took the time to be with His disciples and tell them He loved them, that they were His chosen friends. What he did and said was very important. He washed each of the disciples’ feet and said, "Do you understand what I have done for you? Now that I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you should also wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you...Now that you know these things, YOU WILL BE BLESSED if you do them."

And then, after a little while he said, "A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love."

Why a new commandment, when the Jews were already instructed to "love thy neighbor as thyself?" (Leviticus 19:18) Perhaps because we are to love as Jesus loves, not as we love ourselves. Many of us do not know how to love ourselves. We can be over critical. We want to change the way we look, the way we speak, the way we act, the way we perform our work. We get frustrated with ourselves. We usually think that what we are, what we are capable of, is never enough. We do not accept ourselves unconditionally. That's why Jesus says, "Look at me. Look at the way I love you. Look at my commitment to you. It does not depend on how you look, your achievements, your worthiness. I accept you for who you are. Even if you fail again and again. Even if you see yourselves as thin or fat, or white or dark, or timid, or dumb. I love you. I died for you. I want to help you to grow, to mature, to use all your gifts, not only for My glory, but because that is how I can bless you."

The first step to loving others, is to know God's love for us. He loves us unconditionally, eternally! 

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Remain in My Love

“Remain in My love.” John 15:9

I was 38 years old when Joshua was in my womb. I was so anxious, I just kept praying and praying. God in His mercy and love, spoke to my heart, and said, “You will know how much I love you, when you hold your child in your arms.” This reassured me immensely. True to His Word, when I held Josh in my arms for the first time, I knew His perfect love.

The whole Bible is about God’s love for us. It’s all about how He calls an imperfect people to have a relationship with Him- an intimate loving relationship with a God who gave His all to save us and claim us for His very own. Our destiny is to love Him and to allow Him to love us!

Ravi Zacharias, one of my favorite Christian apologists, who is very sick right now and needs our prayers, said that to love is to treat a person with intrinsic worth, not only when they serve your purpose. I can’t imagine God needing me to do anything for Him. I am sure there are other people who could do a better job for Him! But He fashioned me, He “formed my inmost being; He knit me in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)

The Lord is the One who gives me my worth. He is the One who gives each of us our worth, by loving us! Ravi Zacharias also said, “Only in Christian theism is love pre-existent within the Trinity, which means love precedes human life…” This is the example we must follow. We have to love as God loves us. 

Thank you Lord for Your love which is simply amazing!!!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The True Vine

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine grower.” John 15:1

Henry Francis Lyte wrote the hymn, “Abide with Me”. Some verses go: “Abide with me! Fast falls the eventide, the darkness deepens: Lord, with me abide! When other helpers fail, and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, O abide with me! 

“Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day; Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away; Change and decay in all around I see: O thou who changest not, abide with me!”

Yes, all around may change and decay, but our God changes not. He is always there when we need Him. Nick Charles was a handsome man with a gorgeous mop of hair. He had been a playboy and enjoyed himself before he turned his life over to Jesus, and started peppering his conversations with “God bless you!” From his first job of cleaning rat feces on the floor, he became CNN’s first sportscaster. He got married to his third wife Cory who brought him closer to God, and had a little girl named Giovanna when he found out he had cancer of the bladder. He went the full round of chemo until his hair fell off. When the pain became so unbearable and he was so miserable, he prayed, “God, I’ve had enough. I don’t want to say goodbye to my family, but if it’s time, take me home.” 

What happened was a light shone in the corner of the room, and a figure that could only be Christ, sat beside him on the bed. He said, “Nick, I’m going to call you home but not tonight. Just hang in there.” 

When Nick Charles died, CNN wanted to make a feature about him but couldn’t figure out what to do with the story about Jesus Christ visiting Nick and comforting him, even though it profoundly affected many of the producers and staff. They finally did mention it in passing in the news. 

At the time Nick needed Jesus, He came in a way that profoundly helped Nick. We can be sure if we abide in the true vine, He will come in all sorts of ways when we need Him. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Peace I Leave With You

 "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27

The infamous typhoon Haiyan that devastated parts of the Philippines in November 2013, was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded. As I watched helplessly on CNN, I saw swathes of water enveloping cities, felling trees, moving huge boats inland. My sister-in-law in Coron, Palawan, reported being terrified of the strong winds and rain which blew through the open windows of their house. And then, suddenly, peace. The eye of the storm.

In our life, there will always be upheavals, challenges, frustrations. For me every day brings new challenges with my health. Yesterday every breath I took was painful. Today there is no pain but my left arm is aching and difficult to move. We have been planning reopening our online portal and branches in the midst of uncertainty and confusion. So much to disturb our peace.

In the same way that in any typhoon, there is the eye where one can find calmness, God has also provided a place for us to meet Him. In Psalm 46:10, we read, "Be still and know I am God." Even if all is raging outside, we should not permit the fury to come into our heart and mind and spirit. I picture a boat in the middle of a stormy sea. As long as the water does not get into the boat, it will be all right. As long as we do not allow the storm to affect our emotions, our attitude, our thinking, we will be all right.

Exodus 14:14 is one of my very favorite verses: "The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still, you shall hold your peace." Our part is to keep still. If we manage that, God will keep the water out of our boat, even if any storm or virus does its worst!

Monday, May 11, 2020

Keep My Word

“Whoever loves Me will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” John 14:23

King Saul had to learn the hard way that God was displeased with him because of his disobedience. In Deuteronomy 8, a chapter in the Old Testament Jesus liked to quote from, we see a picture of what we would be like if we disobeyed God. Verse 19 reads, “But I assure you of this: If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other will certainly be destroyed.” 

In the novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” written by Oscar Wilde in 1890, it tells of a handsome man who had his portrait painted. Gray, in his vanity, sells his soul to preserve his looks and ensure that instead of himself, the painting would age. Not only did Gray’s portrait grow older and older, it also 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 we live a righteous life, we fasted during lent, we have been attending mass online the past weeks, pray the Oratio Imperata, and we have been giving donations to food programs. 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, show us the way to Your heart! 

Sunday, May 10, 2020

A Living Stone

“Beloved: Come to him, a living stone...chosen and precious in the sight of God...” 1 Peter 2:4

Yesterday, I had a beautiful conversation about my mother on Facebook. My cousin and I were reminiscing. I hope my cousin does not mind my recounting our conversation as it is Mother’s Day today and she brought back vividly for me how my mom always liked to teach good things.

I wrote, “God is good to you because you have a good heart. And your heart shines out of your eyes. Aren’t the eyes are the window of the soul?”

She said, “You’re making me cry ❤️ You remind me of your mom. She always told me that she knows my heart and that to never think otherwise no matter what I hear that will make me doubt myself. I've always kept that within ❤️ Thank you so much for saying those words. It means the world to me. ❤️I love you 💋💋💋

I told her, “It’s true. Mommy never told a lie. And she taught us to never tell lies either. You should always be confident because your are precious in God’s eyes. Hugs!!!!!”

Then she wrote back: “That’s exactly the lesson she was giving me, about telling the truth! WowI felt guilty that I told the truth because someone told me that my mom will not get a visa because I was too honest. Auntie Corit said never feel guilty for telling the truth. Guess what, Mama got an indefinite US visa I have always followed that rule no matter what I lose. Tell the truth ❤️ 😘 It's like she's talking to me from heaven ❤️

We are all living stones, and all together we comprise the Church God is building on earth. My mother was one of those living stones, chosen and precious in the sight of God. When my mother was alive, she touched so many by her words and actions. She was always helping. Even a stranger on the street, she would give money and tell them how to start a business. Our family business which has now grown to 20 branches in Metro Manila and two provinces outside the city, was started from the seed of prayer and hard work. She is well remembered by our employees. She was strict, but my mother always meant well. She always would take time to teach them how to live according to God’s ways. And that is why we continue her legacy of faith and love today. One of my sisters initiated a Bible study every week at our main office. My other sister, who heads our Human Resources department, reminds me of my mom, when she invests a lot of time talking to our staff about the importance of living honestly, getting married and obeying God’s laws. My brother, even when he is teaching drawing, tries to inculcate good values in his little students. And my youngest sister has always initiated doing good deeds and planting seeds anywhere she goes.

Yes, mommy was a living stone who left her indelible mark on many. We too should try to be living stones, and build God’s kingdom here on earth. 

Happy Mother’s Day in heaven, mommy! We miss you and love you so much! 

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Signs on the Way

“Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” John 14:8

My sister and her husband went on a pilgrimage through one of the routes of the Camino de Santiago last year. The Way of St. James as it is known in English, is a huge network of pilgrims' ways that leads to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain. Tradition has it that the remains of Saint James the Great are buried there.

The scallop shell, found on the shores of Galicia, came to symbolize the way, and can be found in hundreds of posts and signs along the Camino as one walks or bikes the trails. The pilgrims look for the shell printed in yellow on a blue background to know for certain they have not lost their way.

We may not know it, but we are each on a pilgrimage. We may be comfortable where we are but we do not belong here. We are all taking our own route to our forever home. So we should also look for signs along the way, to make sure we are not lost. Just as Philip asked Jesus, “Master, show us the Father,” we too should be looking for our Father along the way. Jesus answered Philip, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

Along the Camino de Santiago, the scallop shell, or the Vieira, is the sign the pilgrims look for. In our pilgrim journey, we should always look to Jesus. Those who walk the Camino also carry the shell along with them on their journey. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

I am reminded of Steve Green’s beautiful song which goes: 

“We're pilgrims on the journey

Of the narrow road

And those who've gone before us line the way

Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary

Their lives a stirring testament to God's sustaining grace

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses

Let us run the race not only for the prize

But as those who've gone before us

Let us leave to those behind us

The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives”

The only way we will leave a heritage of faithfulness, is by looking to Jesus and following Him.

Friday, May 08, 2020

The Way, The Truth and The Life

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

Many people have rejected Christianity because of its exclusivity. But truth by its very nature IS exclusive. You can’t have many truths. Pilate asked Jesus in John 18:38, “What is truth?” but he did not wait for the answer. Many of us do the same. We prefer to make our own truth because we do not like to change how we think and how we live. 

Jesus said, “I came to bring truth to the world.” If what He says is true, then all other so-called “truths” are fake news. There are many articles about “Defining your truth”, and “Living your truth”. One article on Huffington Post by Rebecca Mckown actually ended with, “Now you are ready. Your truth has been un-earthed. Now go and live your truth. I will be right beside you.”

No one on earth can be right beside us all the time except Jesus. No one died so that we can live victoriously. In almost all other world religions, we have to earn nirvana through good deeds. The good has to outweigh the bad. The way of Christ is counterculture. Christ became sin for us so we can be righteous, holy and pure and the Father can accept us into His Kingdom. We have access to our Father because Jesus reconciled us. How glorious is this way of God that we may have an intimate, loving relationship with the Son, the Father and the Spirit. It is wholly incomprehensible that God would want that with us. Thank You Lord that You made a way where there is no way! You opened up heaven’s doors, because You are the way, the truth and the life!