Monday, August 31, 2020


“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:18

Back in Jesus’ day, there were no social media posts, no viral videos. If there was, I  don’t think there would have been a video of the time Jesus went to a synagogue one Sabbath day in Nazareth. He was after all, an obscure young man in an even more obscure town. But it was certainly an earthshaking event. The King of Kings revealed Himself! That is what is called an “epiphany”. God revealed Himself. 

Jesus told His listeners that He was the anointed One, the Messiah they had been longing for. “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing,” He proclaimed. Many thought that was fake news, but many believed and followed Him. After all, He made the blind see and the lame walk. He walked on water and made rough winds calm. He healed the sick and rebuked demons. 

The apologist Ravi Zacharias said that Jesus did not come to make bad people good, but to make dead people alive. Sometimes we feel dead inside, hopeless, depressed, in much pain. All we need to do is to pray that Jesus will show His face to us, to reveal to us that He is not fake news or a fake Messiah. He will because He came into the world to do exactly that! 

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Losing and Finding

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25

This verse always brings to mind the innumerable saints who were willing to lose their lives for Jesus’ sake. There’s St. Maximillian Kobe who volunteered to take the place of a husband and father about to be executed in Auschwitz, the death camp in German-occupied Poland. Then there’s persistent St. Sebastian who was a Praetorian Guard under Diocletian. When he was found evangelizing his fellow soldiers, he was tied to a tree, and left for dead after being pelted with arrows. He didn’t die however and once he was healthy again, he sought an audience with Diocletian who then had him clubbed to death and dumped in a Roman sewer. 

Less well known is St. Margaret Clitherow who allowed masses to be celebrated in her home secretly during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. That was a crime punishable by death and when caught, Margaret was pressed in between a sharp stone and a door topped by an 800 lb. weight. She died after 15 excruciating minutes. St. Bartholomew, one of Jesus’ apostles, became a missionary in what are now Turkey, Iran and other nearby states. When he converted the King of Armenia’s brother to Christianity, his skin was peeled off his body in strips while he was still alive. Only then was he beheaded. 

Today, how can we “lose our life for Jesus’ sake”? We are not persecuted or hunted down when we worship Him, pray or read the Bible. We are not beheaded when we try to evangelize anyone. Being a Christian in these days is not life-threatening, and yet we barely are able to do the minimum. How much time do we spend in prayer, and pondering the words of Jesus? How much do we give of our treasure to those who are hungry, who need our help? St. Maximillian gave his very life for a stranger. Do we give time to pray for those who are sick, who need prayer cover when they work in danger zones like the hospital? Let us lose some of our time, talent and treasure for others, and make sure Jesus will recognize us at the heavenly gates. 

Saturday, August 29, 2020

What Remains

“God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.”

Today is the memorial of the passion of Saint John the Baptist. Just yesterday, Luigi my husband, and I talked about Herod Antipas, tetrarch or King of Judea under the Roman Empire, who had John the Baptist imprisoned and beheaded. In the Bible we read the Herod “feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him.” Imagine that, Herod was a very powerful man but he liked to hear John the Baptist speak! He knew there was something different about John. Perhaps John awoke some good in him, but instead of listening to his conscience, he listened to Herodias who harbored a terrible grudge against John for speaking the truth. Herod had divorced his wife Phasaelis, and John the Baptist rebuked Herod for unlawfully taking Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip I.

Josephus, the Jewish historian who wrote “Antiquities of the Jews”, relates that Herod was afraid of John’s great influence on the masses and put him to death because the Jews might raise a rebellion against him. Herod lusted for power and wanted to hold on to it at all cost. He had his wife Mariamme, and three of his sons executed because he accused them of trying to kill him. He confiscated the property of the hostile Jewish upper classes who did not support him, making him exceedingly wealthy. 

With all his wealth and power, Herod made many miserable. Herod’s disease and distemper are described in minute detail by the historian Josephus and many of the Jews believed his pain and suffering were God’s punishment upon him. Herod claimed, “I know the Jews will greet my death with wild rejoicing...” To make sure that there would be mourning in the whole of Judea when he died, he had the most important men of every village in Judea arrested and imprisoned in the hippodrome. He instructed his sister Salome, “These men under guard — as soon as I die, kill them all….” Thankfully, Salome released them all at his death. In Josephus’ words, “Salome ... dismissed those that were shut up in the hippodrome; and told them, that the King ordered them to go away to their own lands, and take care of their own affairs, which was esteemed, by the nation, a great benefit.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote a poem about how might, wealth and power is fleeting, “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.” 

We can be sure that what remains of a man’s life is that which lives forever in the hearts and souls of those he loved and served. 

Friday, August 28, 2020

Give Me Oil

And the foolish said to the prudent, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” Matthew 25:8

Jesus makes it clear in this parable of the wise and foolish virgins that there is a very real danger that some of us will get ourselves locked out of heaven. The question then is who is Jesus and do we really believe what He is saying?

People believe what they like, and sometimes do not even care to find out the truth for themselves. I believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, because of all the prophecies about His coming that were fulfilled. Mathematically speaking, the chance of one person fulfilling only 8 of those many prophecies, is 1 with 17 zeros! There are a lot of other rational reasons why I believe Jesus was sent by the Governor of all the earth, and sea and skies, to teach us how to get into His Kingdom. 

If life was an adventure movie like Indiana Jones and there was a map to this awesome treasure that was more valuable than all the gold on the earth, everyone would be searching for that map, wouldn’t they? But here and now, in our real life, the map is everywhere! In all the bookstores, sitting on our shelves even! All we need to do is sit down, open it up, and ask God to help us find our treasure and He’ll guide us through step by step! 

In the parable Jesus told about the 5 foolish virgins and the 5 wise ones, all 10 were waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. All of them were eager, expectant, vigilant. But alas! 5 of them did not have enough oil for their lamps and their flames were sputtering! They had to leave their waiting post and buy some more oil, and while they were gone, the Bridegroom arrived and they were left outside. 

The lamps represent our spiritual life, and the oil everything that keeps our faith burning brightly. We cannot borrow prayer or studying the Bible from others. We cannot inherit it from our parents or borrow from our brothers and sisters in our church or community. We have to have our own oil so we don’t run out. 

Father, thank You for the treasure You have reserved for each one of us. Thank You Jesus for pointing the way and leaving us the map. Thank You Holy Spirit for never leaving us alone as long as we take the time to listen and read Your Word. 

Thursday, August 27, 2020


“ Him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift...” 1 Corinthians 1:5-7

Most of the time we do not believe that God made us to be amazing! He really planned that we be lights in the darkness, a clarion call for His good news of love, peace and joy! 

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,” Marianne Williamson wrote in her book A Return to Love. “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.” I’m not particularly a fan of Williamson who has a tendency to be new-agey, but I like what she says in this quote which has been frequently attributed to Nelson Mandela in graduation speeches. 

We ARE children of God and He has made us for His own. Whatever we are feeling right now, our situation may be most depressing, but we must not lose heart, as St. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “Though our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day. For our light and temporary troubles are producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our afflictions. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.…” We may be made of weak clay and we often feel inadequate, but we have this treasure God placed in us, this all-surpassing power and grace to be overcomers if we tap into Him. 

C.S. Lewis wrote in his book The Weight of Glory, “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. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

How overwhelming to realize that that is God’s planned destiny for us! 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Easy to Be Brave

“Blessed are you who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways! For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork; blessed shall you be, and favored.” Psalm 128:1-2

I heard a story of a young man who attended boot camp. The training officer put him and the others in the camp through rigorous training, showing them how to use the guns and ammunition. The officer showed them a grenade, and explained, “The one problem with using these is their unpredictability, but the biggest problem is if a soldier doesn’t throw the grenade at just the right time, because of the time delay, the enemy may pick it up and throw it back before it explodes.”  Then he took out the pin and “accidentally” dropped it to the ground. He shouted, “Run! It’s going to explode!” Then laughed when everybody scampered. “Get back here, you cowards,” he barked. 

When the trainees were heading for lunch, a bus arrived, and the young man recognized a friend from high school. In just a few minutes he told his friend that if he got so and so as a training officer, this is what he’ll do with a grenade. Sure enough his friend underwent the same training with the same officer. When the officer dropped the grenade, the friend got down and covered the grenade with his body. He was the only one who got an award for courage in boot camp! And neither he nor his friend told them why!

It’s easy to be brave if we know there is no danger. We may undergo all sorts of trials, suffering and tribulations, but if we know the Lord is with us, that He will never forsake us, and all our experiences are because God is transforming us into better people, we will not be moved. We will not be shaken by circumstances that seem hopeless. We will stand on His Word that, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). We need to be steadfast because like the grenade, the enemy can use our trials to destroy us, to make us feel weak, hopeless and desperate. We need to use our weapons of prayer, and reading the Word to protect us from the evil one who wants to destroy us. 

It is good to read the whole of Ephesians 6:10-18, to be reminded to “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Only Jesus

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!"  Matthew 23:13

Sometimes I think Jesus was hard on those Pharisees and scribes! His rant against them in Matthew 23:2-35 was really full of graphic accusations! He called them not only hypocrites, but blind guides, fools, whitewashed tombs, serpents, and a brood of vipers!  He said they appeared beautiful on the outside but inside they were full of robbery, dead men's bones and filth.

I was once called a hypocrite on Facebook, told I was full of hate, that I should not take the Lord's name in vain and I was just full of "God, God, God!" I can say that I never harbored hate for any of the netizens I was having a discussion with. I merely wanted to know if all the murders happening in our country was all right with them, seeing it was our President who seemed to be ordering the police to "kill, kill, kill!" Suffice to say, it did not end well, and I scampered out of my friend's wall to avoid more acrimony. 

Only Jesus can see into our hearts, and can read our thoughts, so He can really tell it like it is! When He says we're hypocrites, we can bet all our money that we are. If He says we are wasting our time on earthly treasure, that we are full of unforgiveness, that we need to be more generous, then we should decide to work on that aspect of our lives. But how do we hear Him? If we want to, He will find a way to tell us. We certainly do not want to be blind guides, fools and whitewashed tombs!!! We need to want to hear the truth, for only the truth can set us free. 

Monday, August 24, 2020

Stairway to Heaven

“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:51

Sometimes our language cannot express what we mean, but I believe Jesus being God, expressed the truth in the best way given the limitations of His human dialect. That is the reason I like looking at different versions of Bible passages. In the New Living Translation, this same verse is presented as, “ will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth”. 

“The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.” This is what Saint Augustine observed after reading the Scriptures. The more we read the Bible, the more we will be in awe at the breadth of God’s plan for our salvation, that He set in motion, as set down in the Book of Genesis up to the Book of Revelation. In Genesis 28, we read of Jacob seeking refuge in the wilderness from the anger of his brother Essau. While Jacob slept, God gave him a dream of a great “stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it”. 

We see that what was written in Genesis 28:12, was fully revealed in John 1:51. Jacob said in wonder, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven." What Jacob did not know, because God had not revealed His plan yet, is that Jesus is man’s stairway to heaven. Jesus declared to His disciples that He came to fulfill that prophetic vision of Jacob in His very own person: "You will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man". Let us make sure that we are part of God’s family who will reach heaven’s doors and ascend on the Son of Man! 

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Upon This Rock

“You are Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church.” Matthew 16:18

What a tempest in a teapot this one verse has provoked. There cannot be two truths, or three, much less hundreds of truths. What is the rock upon which Jesus built His Church? Would it not be best to go back to what the first Christians believed? After all, that truth was what was passed on to them by the apostles and the leaders who came after them. This truth is built on the teachings of the Councils of the Church, the Church Fathers, the Scriptures, and the Apostles—guided by the Holy Spirit.

In 1 Timothy 3:15, Saint Paul writes, “But, if I am delayed, you should know the manner in which it is necessary to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and the foundation of truth.” The CHURCH is the foundation of the truth, before even the Scriptures were written. 

John Chrysostom, an Eastern bishop and honored as a saint in many Christian churches, taught that Peter was the universal teacher of the universal Church. “Why did Christ shed His blood? That He might obtain possession of those very sheep, WHICH HE ENTRUSTED TO PETER, AND TO HIS SUCCESSORS.” In this document, “The Priesthood”, Chrysostom recognised the primacy of Peter in the see of Rome and the continued primacy entrusted to Peter’s successors, all of whom were commanded to follow and obey the one shepherd.

In a homily, Chrysostom said that “Peter himself, the chief of the Apostles, the first in the Church, the friend of Christ, who received a revelation not from man, . . . THIS VERY PETER,‑‑AND WHEN I NAME PETER, I NAME THAT UNBROKEN ROCK, THAT FIRM FOUNDATION, the great Apostle, the first of the disciples...”. 

Origen, an early Christian scholar who wrote more than 2,000 treatises on theology and founded the first school for Christian pastors, wrote in one of his commentaries: “Peter, upon whom is built the Church of Christ, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail, left only one Epistle of acknowledged genuinity.” 

There is so much wealth to be found in homilies, and writings of the Church Fathers and the Saints where they proclaim that Peter is the rock and the one to whom was entrusted the government of the Church. 

Father, thank You for guiding Your Church for all time, and for entrusting Your truth to Your Church. 

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Kindness and Truth shall Meet

“Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven.” Psalm 85:11-12

When the Psalmist wrote these words, it was in the form of prophecy. That prophecy has been fulfilled.  Saint Augustine explained: “What is truth? The Son of God. What is the earth? The flesh. Ask whence Christ has been born, and you will see that truth has sprung out of the earth ... truth has been born of the Virgin Mary”.

It is truly amazing that God allowed Himself to be at the mercy of man. My niece gave birth a few days ago. A baby that was formed in her womb, placed and nurtured there by God, is now outside her body. She showed us a video of her baby being bathed, and he was kicking and screaming till he was so red all over. And I was remembering how I could feel those same feet bumping against her tummy so hard! This baby came into the world surrounded by prayers and was lovingly awaited by so many.

So many awaited the coming of the Messiah as well. But they were expecting a liberator of a different kind, a soldier perhaps who would destroy the forces oppressing them. Instead God Himself came, in the form of a helpless baby! Who could have ever thought of this plan? God did, as only God could. How could He trustingly put Himself in our fumbling hands? Look at what happened! He was tortured and vilified and crucified! God obviously thinks differently and acts differently from man!  We can read in Isaiah 55:8-9, “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.” Kindness and truth, justice and peace are His ways, but they are not man’s ways. 

So when we see fake news, injustice, hatred, discord, selfishness, know that man brought this down on man. But what we need to be sure of is that God will always be victorious. Just as Christ’s crucifixion won for us who love and obey Him a place in heaven, God will use the evil in this world to bring out the good in us and for us. God always has a plan, implausible perhaps, but He has a plan! 

Friday, August 21, 2020

Dry Bones

 "Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!" Ezekiel 37:4

There are many dramatic chapters in the Bible but none more dramatic than Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones.   The prophet is placed in the middle of a plain with dry bones in every direction. He is asked, "Can these bones come to life?" Whoa! What a question, but Ezekiel knows the perfect answer, "Lord God, You alone know that!" Then God says to him, "Prophesy over these bones! Dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord!" If anyone but God said that, it would have been a mockery. But God's Word is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword(Hebrews 4:12). God's Word will not return to Him void or with no effect. It shall prosper and succeed wherever it is sent (Isaiah 55:11). 

We do not use God's Word enough. We do not wield it like a sword. We do not expect things to happen when we prophecy over hopeless situations. Dry bones? No job? Cancer? An ailing business? What is any of that to an all mighty, powerful God? 

Lord, may I study Your Word and use it like a sword. You said, "I have promised and I will do it!" (Ezekiel 37:14). May we believe and trust in You no matter how hopeless the situation! 

Thursday, August 20, 2020

A New Heart

“I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes...” Ezekiel 36:26-27

Even saints like Saint Paul found it hard to follow God sometimes. He mourned in the 7th chapter of Romans that he did not understand his own actions. “I do not do what I want, but I do THE VERY THING I HATE.....I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” He said he was wretched indeed, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” (Romans 7:21-25)

Saint Augustine battled against God before succumbing to His spirit. “Late have I loved you, beauty so ancient and so new: late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all. You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.”  Sometimes like Saint Augustine, we are beguiled by the “lovely”, shiny things in this world, things that entice us far away from God. Sadly, if we rely on our own strength and power, we will be frustrated like Saint Paul. We need the promise of God, a new heart and a new spirit that He is willing to place within us. 

Today we celebrate the feast day of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. Amazingly, at the age of 22, he, his four brothers, and 25 of his friends entered the Abbey of Citeaux, because they feared the ways of the world! He wrote the famous words, “ The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. Do we need to fear the world? I do not think so. God placed us where we are, and I believe He uses this world to make us better people. The world is a huge saint-making machine as I have heard some say. We just need to be aware that we have an enemy who tries to deceive us, and lure us with “pretty things”, not showing us the “fine print”, the long term consequences of sin. Let us claim God’s promise of a new heart and a new spirit! 


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Strengthen the Weak

“You did not strengthen the did not seek the lost...” Ezekiel 34:4

These verses in Ezekiel do not need explaining. “Thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep? You have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings, but the sheep you have not pastured. You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost, but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally.” God is warning leaders, bosses, anyone who is a shepherd in any sense, of what will happen if we do not take care of our sheep, those we are responsible for. 

It’s easy to point a finger at corrupt and authoritarian political leaders all around the world, and blame them for their people’s’ plight. Instead of taking care of the welfare of their “sheep”, they take advantage of their position and “lord it over them harshly and brutally”. We also know of fathers who, instead of taking care of their families, take to drinking, beating their wives, and not even supporting them. How about heads of corporations and businesses, who live lavish lives on their huge profits while their workers are not even paid correctly, with no overtime pay and benefits? Teachers are shepherds too, and a bad teacher can injure a child forever. 

Let us see ourselves through God’s eyes. We are all shepherds in some way, and we can strengthen those who are weak, and bind up the injured. Especially during this time of pandemic, there are so many in need of help. It can be mind boggling at times. Many need food, financial assistance for education, livelihood, even bail money. We can give words of encouragement, but most of all we can pray. Let us not belittle the support of prayer. “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of”, said Alfred Lord Tennyson. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

One Day

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." Matthew 19:24

There is an urban legend that this is about a small gate in Jerusalem called the "Needle's Eye" during the time of Jesus. It is so small that if a man on a camel were to pass through, he would have to get down, remove all the baggage from the camel and drag the camel through, kneeling on its haunches. So for a rich man to enter heaven, he would have to divest himself of his earthly goods, and kneel humbly before God. But there is no such gate in Jerusalem in Jesus' time and so Jesus did not mean this.

He literally meant it was impossible for a rich man to get to heaven on his own merit. Wealth was a sign of God's favor in Jesus' time, and even today. So the disciples were astonished, bewildered, exceedingly amazed, dumbfounded, when Jesus flat out said that the wealthy had no chance, zilch, of going to heaven. “So who can be saved?" they asked.

Jesus then says it is impossible for men. It is not only impossible for the rich, but also for the poor. It is impossible for any one. Because we would have to give up not only our wealth, but also our children, our parents, our spouses, our lands, our work. Everything. We would have to put God first.

But Jesus does not leave us without hope. He said- "With God ALL things are possible." In Ephesians 2:8 we read, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this not of your own doing, it is the GIFT OF GOD!" Whew!!!! 

We shouldn't give up on ourselves just because we can't follow Jesus perfectly! Just because we can't give up everything and go to the ends of the earth and spread the Gospel. Just because we get impatient with little things and are ungrateful or cannot really forgive.  Jesus already paid the price for our salvation.  We just need to follow Him day after day, and we will change slowly but surely. We can hold on to the promise in Philippians that He who began the good work in us will carry it on to completion. (Phil.1:6) We are all a work in progress. God is chiseling away at our rough spots until one day, if we cooperate with Him, obey Him, we can pass through the eye of the needle.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Treasure in Heaven

“If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Matthew 19:21

Many saints have given up their wealth to follow Jesus. How about ordinary people like you and me? Let me tell you about the “Great Gatsby of Kenya”. When Charles Mully was only 6 years old, he was abandoned by his entire family to fend for himself. He became a homeless beggar and sometimes had to steal so he could eat. That was his life for ten years until a stranger took pity on him and invited him for prayer and fellowship. He heard a preacher’s sermon on the importance of faith, hard work and how nothing is impossible with God. 

He decided to change his life and walked to a more prosperous part of Kenya, where he knocked on doors looking for work. A wealthy Indian Catholic family opened their door and hired him. Charles worked on their property and within a year was promoted to manager of their farm. After that, he got married and had a family of eight children, all the while working hard. He started multiple businesses including Mullyways Agencies, a transportation business conglomerate in the 70’s, and became very rich with assets valued in millions of shillings. That was when the trouble started, because he made money his god, and he realized, “The more you get, the more you want.”

One day his car was stolen by one of the street boys he refused to pay to protect it. That day he realized he had forgotten what and where he came from. God spoke to him and said he had to sell everything he had and help the abandoned children. In 1989, he sold all his property and businesses. He used his money to help the street children, providing shelter, medical care and education. His family was shocked, but his wife Esther decided to help him and started caring for the orphans he brought home. Since that time, Charles and Esther have taken care of more than 23,000 abandoned children. 

God may not be asking us to sell all we have, but He is asking us to give, and give generously. Whatever we give adds to our treasure in heaven. Proverbs 19:17 is very clear: “If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD— and he will repay you!”

Sunday, August 16, 2020

God’s Masterpiece

“O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” Matthew 15:28

We revisit this story again of a Canaanite woman Jesus at first ignored, then gave her the highest praise. “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” How do we get from being ignored by God, forgotten, and unanswered, to being praised for our faith and having our prayers heard? 

There’s always a thrill when we discover something hidden away collecting dust, and find out it’s worth something. In 2014, a homeowner in Toulouse, France, had to open up her attic because of leaks in her roof. She found a 17th-century painting, believed to be from Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. The find received a lot of press coverage, because the painting could be worth 136 million dollars if authenticated. The process of authentification is long and untidy and costs quite a big sum of money, because the difference between a painting by a Master like Caravaggio and one painted by an unknown student of the same genre is huge. It is the connection to the name that matters.

We are called by Christ’s name. We are Christians! We are connected to Him as adopted sons and daughters of our Eternal Father in heaven. It is our relationship with Him that gives us our intrinsic value in the eyes of God. We are made in His image and He loves each and every one of us. None of us are fake daughters and sons of God. We don’t need authentication. A painting can’t reject its maker, but we can reject our Creator and refuse a relationship with Him. Each one of is a masterpiece, precious in His eyes. Let us treasure our connection to Him who gave His very life to save us from being forgotten and forlorn.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

The Design of God’s Heart

“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Luke 1:45

In Psalm 32, we read, “The plan of the LORD stands forever; the design of His heart, through all generations.” Imagine, the Creator of the Universe has a design in His heart for you, and for me. He has a plan for our families, and all the people we are concerned about. The banner over that plan is love. 

How blessed we are that we have the example of Mary, the mother of our Lord. She was blessed, yes, but her life was a paradox, just as yours and mine is. She was full of rejoicing, how could she not rejoice when she was the Ark of the Covenant, when she carried in her womb her own Saviour? But Simeon prophesied in the temple, “...a sword will pierce your own soul, too.” (Luke 2:35) No matter how precious and highly favoured Mary was to God, she could not escape the sword. Part and parcel of the beautiful nativity story, of a new birth, is also the cruel death that saved each one of us. 

We cannot escape trials, suffering and pain. But just as not one tiny ounce of Mary’s suffering was wasted, so too our pains count for something in God’s perfect design. In Psalm 56:8, we are reassured that God keeps track of all our sorrows. He collects all our tears in His bottle. He records each one in His book. Each single teardrop!!! We may not understand what God allows in our life, but like Mary, we just need to believe and trust. 

Friday, August 14, 2020

One Man Took Our Place

“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation." Isaiah 12:2

Today is the Feast Day of  Saint Maximilian Kolbe, who was imprisoned in Auschwitz in February 1941. He and his community had helped to house and feed 3000 Polish refugees, of which 2000 were Jews. He also broadcast illegally on radio and wrote about the atrocities of the Nazis. When he was incarcerated in Auschwitz, he would give away his meagre rations, pray over the sick and comfort those in need. He was beaten and tortured for his faith, singled out for hard labor until he passed out. 

In July 1941, three prisoners escaped and 10 random men from the same cell were chosen to be starved as punishment. When Franciszek Gajowniczek’s name was called, he cried out, “My wife! My children!” Father Kolbe stepped forward and said: “I am a Catholic priest from Poland; I would like to take his place because he has a wife and children.”

Father Kolbe and the other 9 prisoners were brought to an underground bunker stripped naked. One by one, they starved to death. One witness said that there was never any urine in the slop bucket when he came to clean it, for they drank it all. He would hear them singing and praising God led by the priest. Father Kolbe was one of the few who survived after two weeks. They were all injected with carbolic acid and burned unceremoniously. 

Father Kolbe was beatified on October 1971 and canonized in October 1982. Both times, Gajowniczek was a guest in the Vatican.  This man Saint Maximilian Kolbe gave his life for, declared, “so long as I have breath in my lungs, I would consider it my duty to tell people about the heroic act of love by Maximilian Kolbe."

How about us? One man took our place, and the eternal punishment for our sins. Are we so grateful that we would tell everyone who would listen about the amazing love of Jesus Christ?

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Only Compassion

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22

In the 7th chapter of Luke, a drama unfolds. Simon, a Pharisee, invites Jesus to dinner at his home. Jesus accepts, and as He reclines at the table, his legs and feet stretched out away from the table, a woman of some ill repute comes uninvited. She is weeping, and she uses her hair to wipe away the dirt and grime of Jesus' feet. She opens her precious perfumed oil in its alabaster vase, and uses it on Jesus' feet. I can imagine Simon, with a little sneer on his mouth. He is a little amused by this, too entertained to put a stop to this intrusion in his home. He should have had her thrown out for her impertinence, but he likes seeing this so-called prophet and teacher being pampered by a "sinner"! During the first century, if a woman let down her hair, she could be divorced by her husband, and here, this woman, not only uncovered her hair, but was using her tresses to wipe Jesus' feet! If this Jesus was really wise, Simon thought, he should know what sort of woman she was and would not have allowed her to touch him!!!!

But of course, Jesus knew everything Simon was thinking, all the nuances, and He also knew what the woman was thinking and feeling and going through. Just as He knows our heart and mind as well! Oh the shame! Jesus sees all the condemnation and judgement in our mind. The lack of love in our heart. He knows when we look at others with indifference, when there is no charity in our spirit for others who need our help. What did Jesus say? "Little is forgiven the one whose love is small." Do we want to be forgiven? Then we have to tap into the well of love that God has for us and for all sinners like us. We need to see ourselves and others the way God sees us. Then there will be no room for condemnation, only compassion.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Mark an X

“Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and mark a ‘Thau’ on the foreheads of those who moan and groan over all the abominations that are practiced within it.” Ezekiel 9:4

In other versions, we read, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and mark an X on the foreheads of those who moan and groan over all the abominations that are practiced within it.” To moan and groan over the abominations, we need to know what these abominations are, in the sight of God. We cannot make up our own. It is not subjective. We need to know His law. In the preceding chapter, we read about the abominations in the Temple, the presence of idols and worship of other gods. But it is not only what happens in the Temple that God is concerned about, but what is happening in Jerusalem. There are societal evils arising around them. 

This shows me that God wants us to be aware of what is happening around us, that we have to “moan and groan”, not complain, but to cry out to God. We cannot be complacent when we see injustice, and freedoms being trampled upon. We cannot keep silent when the poor are being oppressed. In Exodus 2:23-25, it reads, “Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel GROANED because of their bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them.” 

God recognized the difficulty of what the Hebrews were going through just as He sees what is happening in our country today. He cares deeply about every person who is treated harshly, imprisoned unjustly, and killed summarily. The Father is fully aware of every little tear we shed, and every pain we endure. We can be sure God has a vision and a plan and a purpose. Let us always be reassured by the the words of Saint Paul in Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." 

Let us wait with trust and hope, with “moaning and groaning”, crying out to God, for God's plan and promise to unfold.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020


“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-4

Everybody wants to be “somebody”. No one grows up desiring to be a “nobody”, or almost no one. Mother Teresa said she was just a little pencil in the hands of God. “He does the thinking. He does the writing. He does everything and sometimes it is really hard because it is a broken pencil and He has to sharpen it a little more.” She also said she was a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, and He was sending a love letter to the world. God was able to use this little pencil to bring love to so many sick, desperate people not only in India, but to 139 countries around the world. I cannot imagine how this funny looking little nun was able to found 760 homes, including orphanages, centers for the dying, for refugees, for the aged, the dying, the blind, alcoholics, street children, and even one for leper’s in India. 

I believe it was because this saintly nun was humble which was why God was able to use her. She wrote, “Humility is the mother of all virtues; purity, charity and obedience. It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent. If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. If you are blamed you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal.” She just trudged on with her work, knowing it was really God moving the strings. 

While she headed the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa kept this list of ways to cultivate humility for the sisters:

  1. Speak as little as possible about yourself.
  2. Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others.
  3. Avoid curiosity (she is referring to wanting to know things that should not concern you.)
  4. Do not interfere in the affairs of others.
  5.  Accept small irritations with good humor.
  6.  Do not dwell on the faults of others.
  7. Accept censures even if unmerited.
  8. Give in to the will of others.
  9. Accept insults and injuries.
  10. Accept contempt, being forgotten and disregarded.
  11. Be courteous and delicate even when provoked by someone.
  12. Do not seek to be admired and loved.
  13. Do not protect yourself behind your own dignity.
  14. Give in, in discussions, even when you are right.
  15. Choose always the more difficult task.

Humility is difficult in the me generation where thousands of selfies are uploaded in Facebook and Instagram every minute. “Google reports that its Android devices take 93 million selfies per day, and in one poll, 18-to-24-year-olds reported that every third photo they take is a selfie. Some subjects in one study reported taking more than eight selfies a day.”

We are told in different ways, “Just be yourself”, “Pursue happiness”, and we forget that selfishness produces apathy towards others. That is one of the reasons we have a broken world. We need more humility, a willingness to see others, and a readiness to sacrifice for others, because those “others” are us. Jesus prayed, “May they be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us...” (John 17:21)

Monday, August 10, 2020

Sow Bountifully

“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully....God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

God’s economy is very different from how the economy of the world works. In the world, we will find that value is put on men who use their intelligence and skills to get rich, to become influential, or famous. In God’s economy, it is the one who who pours out his life in love and service of others who is very rich in heaven’s eyes. 

I was amazed when I found out that celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain killed himself. He seemed to have the enviable life, traveling the world, meeting interesting people, and eating all kinds of delicious food all the time. His culinary and adventure programs were wildly successful, and his books were always in the best seller lists, but obviously something was seriously missing in his life. Bourdain said that, though he was considered Jewish by Judaism's definition, "I've never been in a synagogue. I don't believe in a higher power.” He advised in his book, “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly”, that “Your body is not a temple, it's an amusement park. Enjoy the ride." He certainly looked as if he enjoyed himself, sampling what the world offered, from the exotic to the sublime. He claimed to have the best job in the world. Anthony Bourdain may have been idolized by many, but inside he was in pain. He revealed in one of his books, “As you move through this leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life...leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks - on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt." ­

Many of us are in pain, suffering even, at this time. There is so much heartbreak all around us. Whole families are getting sick. So many of the people I have been praying for have died. So many are in need of financial assistance. We can feel so helpless, and torn. Who do we help? How can we help? How much to give? How about us? God reassures us that when we think and feel for others, when we give generously, He will take care of us. We have to sow bountifully at this time, plant seeds of kindness, prayer, encouragement and financial help wherever we can. We can trust God to hold us up. We should have faith that His promise holds true. “God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.” 

Sunday, August 09, 2020

A Tiny, Whispering Sound

“Peter spoke up and said, ‘Lord, if it is really You, tell me to come to You across the water.’ ‘Come!’ He said. So Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water, moving toward Jesus.” —Matthew 14:28-29

How impulsive Peter is! How foolish, foolhardy even! He is very much like a child who is eager to try something new and strange. Are we like Peter? We know we cannot walk on water, but will we ask Jesus, “Lord, if it is really You, tell me to come to You across the water, and I will!”? “Lord, if it is really You, tell me to go to China to be a missionary, and I will! “ “Lord, if it is really You, tell me to pray over the paralyzed man, and I will!” “ Lord, if it is really You, tell me to not be anxious with all that is happening around me, and I will!”

In the first reading for today, 1 Kings 19, the prophet Elijah is waiting inside a cave for the Lord to pass by. 

“A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains

and crushing rocks before the LORD—

but the LORD was not in the wind. 

After the wind there was an earthquake—

but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 

After the earthquake there was fire—

but the LORD was not in the fire. 

After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. 

When he heard this,

Elijah hid his face in his cloak

and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.”

If we want to hear the Lord we have to be quiet, for most of the time, He does not manifest with much drama, thunder and lightning! We have to be still and know that He is God over the Universe, but wants to visit with us in our stillness. “Lord, if it is really You, speak to me in a tiny whispering sound.” 

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Wait For It!

Then the LORD answered me: “Write down this vision and clearly inscribe it on tablets, so that a herald may run with it. For the vision awaits an appointed time; it testifies of the end and does not lie. Though it lingers, wait for it, since it will surely come and will not delay. (Habakkuk 2:2-3)

Habakkuk the prophet complained to the Lord with the same words we can use today: “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.” (Habakkuk 1:1-4) What the evil and wicked people do today is not new. They did it before and they will do it again. Tyrants rise and take advantage of their power and position. But those past cruel and oppressive rulers, where are they now?

The ten years of Chairman Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) was the most intense persecution and repression of Christianity in China. Churches were burned, priests were tortured and martyred. China’s Catholics were targeted as enemies of the state. If one visits the Xishiku Church in Beijing, one will see a well tended site. That was where an elderly priest who refused to denounce his faith was buried alive by Chairman Mao’s radical Red Guards in 1966. Priests were forced to trample on crosses as Red Guards chanted, “Down with God!” Persecution like this was not uncommon during those days as Mao vowed to destroy any vestige of Christianity, or any religion. 

But where is Chairman Mao now? While, by some estimates, China is on track to have the world’s largest population of Christians by 2030, more Christians than the US! Truly God has a vision for China! God has a vision for the Philippines! He promises us, His faithful people, “For the vision awaits an appointed time...though it lingers, wait for it, since it will surely come and not delay.”