Saturday, May 08, 2021

Holy Spirit Come

“...the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them." 

Acts 16:6




It must have been exciting to have known Paul, Silas, Timothy and the other disciples. They were just so full of enthusiasm and fire to go out and preach. They wanted to go every where! But sometimes the Holy Spirit would stop them. In the 16th chapter of Acts, in both verses 6 and 7, the Holy Spirit did not let them go to Turkey at that time.

Jesus promised in John 14:16 that the Father would send the disciples the Holy Spirit who would NEVER leave them. "He lives with you now and later will be IN you." (v.17) Jesus had to go so we could have His Spirit IN us. When Jesus was on earth, even if we followed Him everywhere, we would have to wait our turn to talk to Him. Now, even if I'm working in my craft room, I can talk to the Spirit and ask Him to guide me.


In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, we read that Paul advises us to pray unceasingly. Prayer is a two way street. We should talk to God but we also need to listen to Him. We need the promised gift of the Spirit. As Jesus said in John 14:26, "He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I myself have told you."


Kerry Davidson, together with her husband Joey, and two of her children, have been serving God in a marketplace ministry in Liberia since 2007. They run a coconut farm and eco-tourism company where they make disciples through employment in local villages where there are limited opportunities for livelihood. In Liberia, most of the daily work is done outside of the home. As Kerry and her family sat on their front porch they could see their neighbors washing dishes, doing their laundry, and cooking. They also watched while neighbors frequently shouted at each other, and sometimes would bring in the police to mediate in their violent squabbles. 


Kerry started praying for her neighbors one by one, that the peace of Christ would touch them. She says the Holy Spirit “moved into our community and we have not witnessed a fight since I started praying. There is no other explanation but God moving among us and bringing His peace.”


Yes Lord, pour upon me and my family the gift of Your Spirit! I pray that our lives will show evidence of Your Spirit in us! 



Friday, May 07, 2021

Love One Another

“This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” John 15:12




Jesus continues, “And here is how to measure it- the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends.” After Jesus taught His disciples about love, and prayed, they crossed to the Kidron Valley where He was betrayed. 


Usually when I think about this self-sacrificing kind of love, the kind of love that Jesus had for each of us, I think of the larger than life saints like Maximillian Kolbe, who volunteered to die in place of another prisoner in Auschwitz. Kolbe was a hero many times over before he sacrificed his life for another in that Nazi concentration camp. And there are many other saints who sacrificed their lives in love for others. 


But there are ordinary people who live extraordinary lives as well. Ronnie Smith was a 33 yr. old chemistry teacher in Austin, Texas, when he and his wife discovered that Chemistry teachers were much needed in Libya. Ronnie decided to go in spite of the many warnings he received. “They’ll see you as an enemy! They’ll kill you!” 


“I don’t care,” he said, “My life is in Jesus’ hands, my after life is in Jesus’ hands. Even if they do kill me, I’m still going.”


After 18 months of teaching in the International School of Benghazi, four unidentified gunmen in a black Jeep shot him down in December 5, 2013. Two weeks later his widow Anita wrote an open letter that was spread all over the news. When she and her husband traveled to Libya, they saw the suffering of the Libyan people, “but we also saw your hope, and we wanted to partner with you to build a better future.” To the attackers, she wrote: "I love you and I forgive you." 


She came out on CNN, and told Anderson Cooper, “I just envision the black Jeep driving up to him and I don't know their faces. I just want them to know that God loves them and can forgive them for this. I just really want them to know that I do love them and I forgive them, and Ronnie would want this, and I hope and pray that our son, Hosea, would believe this," she said. "Yeah, they took away my husband. I loved my husband. But it's got to be God's spirit that's pushing me to show them that this is what God wants them to see.” 


How do we love as Jesus loves? How do we forgive as Jesus forgives? Only by His amazing grace and Spirit within us! 

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

We are God’s Garden

“He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.” John 15:2




I've never taken to gardening but my father took an interest in it when I was young, and he transformed the empty lot beside our house into a beautiful flower garden with brick walkways and meandering paths. We even had a little gazebo and miniature house. There was a lot of pruning and trimming, watering, mulching, and studying which seeds to plant where and when to do it. One had to control weeds, remove the old stalks and leaves and watch out for bugs, fungus and bacteria.


We are very much like plants. God is our gardener and He prunes us and trims us even if He knows it's painful, sometimes very painful. But like a good gardener, He picks the right time to remove the damaged stalks and rotting foliage that keep us from receiving more of His blessings and to promote new growth. He knows how much water or shade we need. 


Like plants, it is very necessary that we get nutrients, and that's why we need to pray and read the Bible. Plants also need supports like a trellis or an A-frame or stakes. We need community around, brothers and sisters to support us and help us to bloom. And  as for those weeds! Let's go to Jesus so He can pull out the weeds that distract us, crowding out what's really important in our life! 


Lord, help me to bloom and grow in Your light. Thank You for being my gardener and for taking care of me and my needs! Thank You for Your pruning so I can bear more fruit! 


Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Peace

 “Peace is my gift to you.” John 14:27




What is peace? Is it the absence of conflict, of war, of trials?  That is the world’s definition perhaps.  But Jesus’ gift of peace is not “as the world gives”.   I sometimes think that if only I had more faith, if I lived by faith, I would be free of problems, trials and challenges.  But of all the people who lived on earth, is it not true that Jesus had the perfect faith?  Was He ever free of trials and pain?  What He had was peace, and that is what He wants to give us.


 In Acts 14, after Paul was stoned by Jews from Antioch and Iconium, Paul and Barnabas encouraged the disciples, saying, “We must undergo many trials if we are to enter into the reign of God.”  There is no escape from the stresses and strains of life.  It is part of the warp and weft of the tapestry God is weaving.  I like to think of God weaving. I can see only the underside, with all its knots, and the mess of thread with discordant colors.  But all will be revealed at the end, when we will see how resplendent and intricate our tapestry will be.  Much more glorious than those beautiful ones found in the Louvre.  And longer and more amazing than the Apocalypse tapestry which runs 100 meters  and depicts scenes from the Book of Revelation! 


Today when we think of art, we think of painting and sculpture most of the time. Hardly do we think of tapestries which were the most valued form of art during the medieval ages.  But from the time of Adam to the present, God’s masterpieces have always been man and his life.  And just as beautiful art needs contrasts of dark and light, our life needs times of sorrow, pain and challenges to bring out the gold threads!  God knows this and wants to give us the gift of peace, the same peace that wrapped around Jesus during His life.  So let us not be troubled  and bothered by our trials. Let us just abide in Him who is our peace, and let Him do His marvelous weaving work in us! 

Monday, May 03, 2021

Still Do Not Know Jesus?

Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me?" John 14:9




I can imagine Jesus asking me the same question! Oh how frustrated He is! He has lavished me with love, blessed me and shown me His face! Here he speaks to Philip. This is the same disciple who in the 1st chapter of John asked, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" After being with Jesus for some time, he still did not know Jesus. 


"Whoever has seen me has seen the Father," Jesus explained patiently. "Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?" Jesus said so much more, but with our own minds, perhaps we will never comprehend fully. We need the light of Christ to illumine His words, the Holy Spirit to breathe understanding into us (Job 32:9). But we must never lose hope. This Philip is now Saint Philip, whose feast day we celebrate today, along with Saint James the Apostle. He went on to preach in Greece, and Syria. Tradition has it that he was crucified upside down and continued to preach while thus tortured! I think we can say Saint Philip eventually got to know Jesus well enough 

to die for Him! 


Lord, yes You have been with me for so long. You are always faithful and have promised to never abandon me. You are my true friend because I know You want what is excellent for me, the very best. May I continue to get to know You more and more so I may serve and love You more and more. 

Sunday, May 02, 2021

I am the Vine

 "I am the vine, you are the branches." John 15:5




These words of Jesus, part of His farewell message to His disciples, are very powerful. If we can only understand the significance of this short phrase, we would be different persons. After Hudson Taylor contemplated these words, he considered his life "an exchanged life". Hudson Taylor wrote: “The Spirit of God revealed to me the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never known it before....I saw not only that Jesus will never leave me, but I am a member of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. The vine is not the root merely, but all- root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit. And Jesus is not that alone- He is soil and sunshine, air and showers, and ten thousand times more than we have ever dreamed, wished for and needed. Oh the joy of seeing this truth!"


Why was it so exhilarating for Taylor to realize this? Hudson Taylor had been a mighty missionary of the faith in China for several years but he had been exhausted and depending much on his own strength and resources. 

He had been striving for faith! 


He wrote in a letter about this discernment, "...It is a wonderful thing to be really one with a risen and exalted Savior, to be a member of Christ! Think what it involves! Can Christ be rich and I poor? Can your right hand be rich and your left poor? Or your head be well fed while your body starves? No more can your prayers or mine be discredited if offered in the name of Jesus!"


Hudson Taylor founded the China Inland Mission and went through much suffering and challenges in doing so. His first wife and his second wife, and I don't know how many children died before him. His family was almost killed in a riot in China! His house burned down to the ground, nothing left! He had to depend much on God for providing not only for himself and his family, but also the mission. But God did provide! “The branch of the vine does not worry, and toil and rush here to seek for sunshine, and there to find rain. No, it rests in union and communion with the vine; and in the right way, is the right fruit found on it. Let us abide in the Lord Jesus." When Hudson Taylor died, his second son, Howard Frederick said of him, “Christ was the reason for his peace, his power for calm."


Lord, may I abide in You, live wholly connected to You by Your love for me! 


Saturday, May 01, 2021

Signs

“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 a couple of years ago. 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, April 30, 2021

In My Father’s House

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” John 14:2




I like mining the Bible for the gold of God’s promises. One of the most reassuring are the verses in John chapter 6. “Let not your heart be troubled...In My Father’s house are many dwelling places...I go to prepare a place for you.” Who better to prepare a place for us in heaven than THE way, THE truth and THE life? Jesus assures us that as long as we place our faith, our hope, and our trust in Him, we have a place reserved just for us! 

The same goes for those who have gone on before us. I like telling the story of God’s faithfulness to me when my mom died. I thought I would be devastated when she left us. We were always together because from the time we went to daily mass at 6 am, then a visit to the Adoration Chapel, then went to the office together, we never ran out of things to talk about. My mom didn’t really want to go to Europe for a month, but she did it for me because she knew it was my dream. When my mom saw me crying because God had asked me to go to QC Jail and I did not want to, she promised to go with me if no one else would accompany me. She was not only my mother, she was my best friend. So when my mom got cancer, and it was getting worse, I knew I would have to let her go and we each had to tell her we would be all right. Never would I have imagined that the day my mother died God would give me the amazing grace of being ecstatic that at last, she would be with our Father who loves her best. 

There is so much heartbreak these days. We have never experienced so many deaths of people we know, people our children know. We can take comfort in Jesus’ reassurances, “Where I am you may also be.” We should always remember the truth that we are all pilgrims on a journey. Earth is merely a way station, a stop over, a terminal. We should not have too much baggage! Jesus did everything here on earth so that one day we can be with Him. Where He is, is the best place to be! But we can always carve out a space and time in the here and now to be with Jesus. Many things can distract us, but there is one certainty we can depend on. We are loved, we are precious, and neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39). 

Lord, thank You for showing us the way. Thank You that we have a special place with You! Thank You that one day we will all be together again with the people we love and miss! 


Thursday, April 29, 2021

Extraordinary Days


“The favors of the Lord I will sing forever.” 

Psalm 89:2




I particularly like ordinary days. I don’t like excitement, change. I especially don’t like accidents, people getting sick, losing jobs, fires. Of course! Who does?


But I also realize there are no ordinary days. Every day is extraordinarily extraordinary! We are on a journey around the sun, for goodness sake! Every year we go around this huge mass of hot 5778 K swirling plasma! And just like that, my perspective changes. I am surrounded by miracles. Nothing is ordinary! Not the cactus sitting quietly on a pot beside me. Not the skin on my fingers. When I get paint on it, I can easily clean it off. No stains! How do I hold on to this miracle of life? 


Like the psalmist, I should always have gratitude in my heart. I should open my eyes, my heart, my ears to the favors of the Lord. I should not concentrate on what can happen, what gives me stress, negative things people say. The heavens proclaim the wonders of God. I am His creation. So should I! 


Wednesday, April 28, 2021

God’s Promises

“Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me. I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.” John 12:44-46




This is one of Jesus’ promises. A promise is only as good as the man who gives it. It doesn’t matter if he signs a contract or shakes your hand, if a man has no integrity, the promise is worth nothing. All of Jesus’ promises are as good as gold in heaven’s bank. But like all money or bank certificates, we need to claim it. It’s ours, placed in our name because we are adopted sons and daughters of God, but we need to first, know about it, and then we need to claim it. 


A man who looked like a beggar was found dead on a Central Park Bench in New York City. When someone looked for his identity by searching his pockets, he found several uncashed checks amounting to a lot of money. I do not know if that story is true, but what is true is that there is almost $134 million worth of uncashed checks in the US Social Security Administration and millions and millions of dollars of unclaimed money in banks, life insurance funds, tax refunds, etc. I am sure it is the same in the Philippines. 


There is so much more unclaimed promises in the Bank of Heaven. Imagine how much Jesus’ promises are worth compared to earthly money that is really worth nothing when we die? We work hard for paper money. How much effort do we put in getting to know the Promise-Keeper and His promises to us? 


Lord, I want to get to know You more each day. I want to see Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly and follow Thee more nearly, day by day, as it goes in a well known song. Teach me Your ways O Lord and do not allow me to stray far away from You. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Faith Matters

“... and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.” Acts 11:26




This is not the first time humanity has been in a dire situation for there have been many plagues and epidemics that have ravaged us throughout history. The Antonine plague in A.D. 165-180 may have killed over 5 million people in the Roman Empire and decimated their army. In A.D. 541-542, the bubonic plague killed almost 10% of the world’s population and marked the start of the decline of the Byzantine empire. Then there is the infamous Black Death in 1346-1353, seven years of devastation that changed the course of European history. Bodies were buried in mass graves. An estimated 500 million  people died from the Spanish Flu from 1918-1920. Some communities almost became extinct. And the list goes on. 


But wherever there is pain and trials, there the Christians go bravely. In one French account of a plague, it is written, “The nuns in one hospital, having no fear of death, tended the sick with sweetness and humility. New nuns replaced those who had died, until most had died. Many times renewed by death, they now rest In peace with Christ.” This selfless nursing tradition developed in the early years of Christianity. In his book, “The Triumph of Christianity”, sociologist and historian Rodney Stark makes the powerful case that the main reason why Christianity flourished while Roman paganism dwindled in the 1st to 4th centuries was because of the care Christians gave toward those who were sick and suffering. While well known Roman healers like the classical physician Galen fled the city of Rome for their country estates, benevolent Christians stayed and ministered to the sick and dying. 


Rodney Shark wrote, “What went on during the epidemics was only an intensification of what went on every day among Christians… Indeed, the impact of Christian mercy was so evident that in the fourth century when the emperor Julian attempted to restore paganism, he exhorted the pagan priesthood to compete with the Christian charities. In a letter to the high priest of Galatia, Julian urged the distribution of grain and wine to the poor, noting that “the impious Galileans [Christians], in addition to their own, support ours, [and] it is shameful that our poor should be wanting our aid.” But there was little or no response to Julian’s proposals because there were no doctrines and no traditional practices for the pagan priest to build upon…. Christians believed in life everlasting. At most, pagans believed in an unattractive existence in the underworld. Thus, for Galen to have remained in Rome to treat the afflicted during the first great plague would have required far greater bravery than was needed by Christian deacons and presbyters to do so. Faith mattered.”


Yes, faith matters, today more than ever. As Christians we are called to be loving, generous and merciful, like Christ. Many of our brothers and sisters are risking their lives every day serving in the front lines of this devastating pandemic. We ourselves may not be called to go out and tend the sick, but we can surely pray in faith, encourage one another, and give generously, as much as we are able, to those in need. 


Monday, April 26, 2021

Follow Jesus!

“...the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” John 10:4-5




On the 4th Sunday of Easter, yesterday,  the Catholic Church celebrated Good Shepherd Sunday. Jesus is our Good Shepherd, and we are His sheep. Although a lamb is lovable and cuddly, it is not exactly a compliment to be compared to sheep! Sheep are quite dumb, short sighted, stubborn, and defenseless. They gather in groups and really need someone to guide them because they can't take care of themselves. They move all together in a herd. In 2006, 400 sheep fell into a 15 meter deep ravine and died because of this instinct.


I like telling the story of my husband when he asked a shepherd if he could feed his sheep. The shepherd said, "That's my problem. Even my son can't feed them. They only recognize my voice!" True enough, when Luigi tried, the sheep did not come. He would approach them and the sheep would move away. Then when the shepherd called, they came right away!


Sheep who know a good master's voice and follows him will be taken care of. But sheep who follow the wrong voice can end up in deep deep trouble! Let us learn how to follow Jesus’ teaching so we don’t take a wrong turn and get lost! 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Good Good Shepherd

“I am the good shepherd...and I will lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14-15




Do we know our good shepherd? Do we know how much He loves us personally, intimately, uniquely, lavishly? He gave His life for us because of that crazy love! We should spend our life getting to know Him instead of running away from what we think He is. 


Shepherds work hard to take care of their sheep. It is no easy task. They stay outdoors with their flock day and night. During the day, they walk the sheep so they can graze on green pastures. At night they guard the open sheep folds or take them to the shelter of a cave to keep the sheep safe from hyenas and other predators. They count the sheep and make sure they are healthy. They lead them to refreshing pools of water to quench their thirst and draw water for them from a well if there was no water to drink. 


If a sheep was rebellious, and strayed from the flock, the sheep could get mauled by a jackal. Sometimes we desire freedom, and prefer to do life our way, going after what we perceive as good. It was the same for Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis. God provided a beautiful garden for them to live in. He only had ONE rule, DO NOT eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:16-17) Out of all the trees in the garden, Eve set her lustful eyes on the fruit of that ONE tree after the serpent enticed her. The serpent continues enticing each and every sheep of the good Shepherd. And we keep listening and going astray.


Until we discover how we are much better off with the good Shepherd who loves us and cares for us and wants the best for us. We realize He has been looking for us all along, every time we strayed. He wants us back. He never gives up on us. He gave His life for us. 





Saturday, April 24, 2021

Grateful

“How shall I make a return to the Lord ​for all the good he has done for me?” Psalm 116:12





Nobody loves us as much as God does. He loved us first, and He loves us best, and He will love us forever. Indeed our whole life is a testament to God's unfailing goodness and love. He surrounded us with people to love, support and encourage us to be the best we can be. He put us in a place where we can use our gifts and talents. He answers our prayers and speaks to us when we need His help, and even when we feel we don't. He forgives us seventy times seven and assures us that nothing shall ever separate us from His love. 


In 1 Corinthians 3:9, St. Paul writes: "We are God's garden, His field..." Can we picture God as our gardener, making sure we are blooming and fragrant? He watches out for little pests that can make some of the plants wither, or even destroy the root systems. He also prunes and cuts away dead leaves.


We don’t even realize that we carry around something dead with us every day. It's smelly and ugly, but we can't shake it off. It's our sin nature. It's the one that wants our own way. It's selfish, it's cranky, it's indulgent. But it's dead, because in baptism, Jesus pruned it away! We are dead to sin, but alive in Christ (Romans 6, Col. 2:13). Yes, God never gives up on us. Each one of us is His own unique masterpiece and He is constantly working on us. How do we repay Him for His goodness and faithfulness?

The psalmist in Psalm 116 asks this same question and answers it well: “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.” (v.13)

 

We can and we certainly should “toast” the graciousness of the Lord, and proclaim His faithfulness. It is the custom of the Jews to drink a cup of blessing and thanksgiving during festivals as a special expression of thanksgiving. “Blessed be the Lord, the maker of the world, who has created the fruit of the vine!” they exclaim exuberantly. When we “call upon the name of the Lord”, we proclaim what the Lord has done. Isn’t this evangelization, preaching the good news? We who have experienced God’s many gifts should also announce or preach the gospel in every way we can, to repay Him.

 

If we continue reading Psalm 116, we will see another way to offer the Lord our thanks. “I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.” (v.14) We can keep our promises as His people to live the way of life He has taught us.

 

Lord, may we always be grateful to You, knowing we owe You everything. Everything we have is Yours. May we live our life fully committed to You and to the way of life You have called us to.


Friday, April 23, 2021

Saul! Saul!

 "Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting Me?" 

Acts 9:4




Saul was traveling to Damascus on a mission to arrest and drag to Jerusalem anyone following the 'new way'. In Acts 9:1, he is described as 'breathing murderous threats' against Jesus' disciples. He was stopped by a light in the sky, and a voice asking,"Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?"


In Damascus today, Christians are being persecuted by modern day Sauls who want to exterminate them. Christians have lived in Damascus for more than 2000 years but now they are being driven away from their homes. Hundreds of thousands of Christians in Syria are being kidnapped, tortured, and even crucified and beheaded. There are still a few Christians who speak Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. Their churches, St. Elias Church and St. Grace Church in the Christian village of Maaloula near Damascus are under attack. The congregations have found themselves caught in the middle of warring factions and rebels have fallen into Islamic terrorism. 


There is not much we can do. But I know prayer changes more things than this world thinks it can. Let us pray that these modern day Sauls get converted if not by a light from the sky and a voice from heaven, then by other miracles. Nothing is impossible with God! And He is so creative! I believe that even now, saints are arising in the persecuted areas of the world! Let us cover those areas with prayer and fasting! Let us combat the jihad against Christians with an army of interceding warriors!


And then we should think also of the times we were Saul to the beggar on the street, the helper who does not get a day off, the Grab driver we scolded for not taking care of our delivery. These days there are so many opportunities NOT to be Saul and to help the many who are in need and who are hungry. 


Thursday, April 22, 2021

New Every Morning

“Do you really grasp what you are reading?” The Ethiopian eunuch replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” Acts 8:30-31



Sometimes people tell me they can’t understand the Bible even if they try. There is no shame in admitting that. If we really desire to know God and His word, God will send someone to teach us, just like the Ethiopian eunuch in the 8th chapter of Acts. An angel instructed Philip to “Head south on the road ...to Gaza, the desert route.” There Philip met the unnamed eunuch who was reading scripture from the prophet Isaiah. Philip, one of the seven chosen in Acts 6 to care for the poor in the fledgling Church in Jerusalem, helped the eunuch understand. The man was led to Christ and baptized. 

We may be the eunuch who does not understand, or Philip, sent by God to explain to someone who does not understand. Usually we are both. I may seem like I know a lot about the Bible but nothing could be farther from the truth. Every day, when I sit at the feet of Jesus I am surprised at what He shows me. I start out by reading the daily Scripture and Anawim meditation. I expect Him to speak to me. When I start writing, my mind is blank, but I expect the Lord to meet me and like Philip, He does. We just have to wait and not give up. I have waited for the Lord every morning since I was quite young. After more than 40 years, there is always something new for me every morning.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is His faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

There are many things in the Bible that puzzle me, but I know that the Holy Spirit guides us to all truth. If today I do not understand, one day, that particular baffling passage will yield its treasure. In God’s time. 

Today, there are so many resources available to us. I like to listen in on the conversion stories on YouTube. I like to ponder on what teachers and preachers like Steve Ray, Brant Pitre, Scott Hahn and so many others, discover. Like the eunuch, we can see clearly that Jesus was already foretold in the Old Testament, that the Eucharist has its roots in Jewish traditions, that all the old covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David find their fulfilment in the new covenant of Jesus Christ. 

So many exciting conversations to listen in on. We just need to find the time and God will use that to enliven the flame and bring us back to our first love for Him. It is truly an exciting time we are living in! 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Shout Joyfully to God!


“Shout joyfully to God, all the earth, ​sing praise to the glory of his name; ​proclaim his glorious praise.” Psalm 66:1-2




Some days it is very hard going to praise the Lord. There is so much heartbreaking news and an unending list of people to pray for. A mother died in the hospital tent gasping for breath in front of her daughter. A very young child in mental anguish. Caregivers trying to commit suicide in the ER. Just the other day we were praying for a brother in Christ to be able to get a room in a hospital. Then when a room was available, we prayed for an ambulance and of course, all the while we were praying for healing.  Only to be told he passed away. I cannot imagine what his wife and family are going through. 


But beyond the veil, I know there is much rejoicing. He has run the race, fixing his eyes on Jesus. He can claim with Saint Paul that “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). He has graduated with honors. He will receive his reward in heaven for all his selfless work for our community and for the many underprivileged people he loved to serve. That is something we can celebrate and thank God for! Eternity awaits us when we follow Jesus, the One who loved us enough to die for us, so that we might live forever! Hallelujah! Praise His mighty name! 

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Supersubstantial Bread

“I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger...” John 6:35





True stories abound of very rich people, celebrities even, who earned hundreds of millions of dollars, and ended up scrounging in garbage bins and living out of cardboard boxes or cars. There are also people who won millions in the lotto, who thought all their problems would be solved but who became even more enmeshed in more problems and disasters. No matter how rich or privileged a person is, he can never guarantee that he will never go hungry. 


There is only one Person who can give us the guarantee that we will never go hungry if we stay by His side. Jesus. He said, “Do not work for food that perishes but for food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him, the Father, God, has set His seal.” (John 6:27)


During Biblical times, seals were often made of wax, embedded with the personal imprint of the one who makes the guarantee of authenticity. Here Jesus assures us that it is God the Father Himself who guarantees Jesus as the Bread of Life. Whoever depends on Him, who accepts Him as Lord, will never hunger. 


When we pray the Lord’s prayer from Matthew 6:11 and Luke 11:3, we say, “Give us this day our DAILY bread”. But most Christian scholars today reject this translation of word “epiousios” in the original Greek New Testament. These scholars as well as Saint Jerome back in AD 382, translate it not as “daily” but as “SUPERSUBSTANTIAL”. Jesus instructed us to ask for supersubstantial bread. That is why we will never hunger, never perish, never die. 


Like the apostles let us pray, “Jesus, give us this supersubstantial bread always! You are the bread of life. I believe in You! I trust in You!”


Monday, April 19, 2021

I Have Chosen the Way of Faithfulness

“I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws.” Psalm 119:30-31




It is good to read how ordinary men and women choose to live faithfully. As Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”


Gladys Aylward was one such woman. She became a Christian at a young age all because she could not extricate herself from a crowd. She was so small that she got pushed and found herself inside a church and was too embarrassed to leave. So she stayed to listen to the Pastor. She became convicted after that experience and tried to get nuns, teachers, anybody to go to China and become a missionary and spread the gospel there. No one listened to her. When she tried to convince her brother, he said in disgust, “Why don’t you go yourself?”


She finally set her heart on going, first by studying in Hudson Taylor’s China Inland Mission. She was rejected after a while because she couldn’t seem to get the hang of learning Chinese. She decided to just go out on her own by saving money to take the Trans-Siberian Express across Europe to China. She worked as a parlor maid and read her master’s books about China. She tried all sorts of ways to increase her savings even to selling her nice shoes and buying second hand shoes which were both for the left foot! 


Eventually she set off on what turned out to be a perilous journey across Siberia only to find herself being caught up in a war between Russia and China. After surviving all sorts of challenges she arrived at her destination and met up with an older missionary named Jeannie Lawson. They set up The Inn of Eight Happinesses based on the eight virtues of Love, Virtue, Gentleness, Tolerance, Loyalty, Truth, Beauty and Devotion. Not only did they make a comfortable place for travelers, but they shared stories of Jesus. Gladys was also able to spread the good news when she became a “foot inspector” and travelled all over China to help enforce the new law against foot binding young Chinese girls. Of course at this time she was already fluent in Chinese, confounding the verdict of her teachers in the missionary school.


One time she managed to intervene in a volatile prison uprising, resulting in the improvement of the conditions in which the inmates lived. She also found herself in charge of about a hundred orphans during the war. After 27 days of trekking, she had led them over the mountains to the safety of an orphanage beyond the war zone. She collapsed of typhus and malnutrition upon arrival. All these efforts earned her the affectionate nickname  ‘Ai-weh-deh’ which means ‘Virtuous One’.


There are many more things this ordinary woman was able to do because she loved Jesus and wanted to obey Him faithfully. Her story was told in the book “The Small Woman” by Alan Burgess published in 1957, and adapted into a wildly inaccurate film, “The Inn of Sixth Happiness”, starring the tall Ingrid Bergman in 1958. 


Gladys always said, “I wasn’t God’s first choice for what I’ve done for China… [but] God looked down… and saw Gladys Aylward… and God said – ‘Well, she’s willing’.” Gladys Aylward chose the way of faithfulness. Have we? 




Sunday, April 18, 2021

Totaliter Aliter

“Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” Luke 24:39




I have never seen a ghost and cannot imagine why any soul having been to heaven would ever want to come back to earth. Here is a funny story from Fr. Rainero Cantalamessa, who has served as the Preacher to the Papal Household since 1980, under Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis. 


“Two German monks enjoyed a great friendship over their years in the monastery. Their favorite topic of conversation was heaven. One, a gardener, believed that the most beautiful flowers would constantly bloom. The other, the organist, thought that heaven would be filled with the most beautiful melodies. They decided that the first to die would return a year after his death and tell the other what heaven was really like with a single word. If it was as he imagined he would say taliter (“exactly”); if it was as the other thought, he would say aliter (“the other one”).


The organist died suddenly, and his friend sent many prayers to heaven in the year that followed. On his death anniversary, he appeared to the gardener in his cell. “Taliter?” the gardener asked. After a moment of silence, he tried the other response. “Aliter?”


The organist breathed forth two words: “Totaliter Aliter! (Totally Other!)”


Indeed, I do not think we can ever come up with what the after life is like. Not even close. It is so totally beyond what we can imagine. And no one can ever describe it to us except Jesus but He didn’t, except to say, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26) The amazing thing about Christianity is we believe in a God who deigned to come down to earth to join us in this difficult human journey. He suffered immensely and His suffering was prophesied in several portions of the Bible. 


Jesus opened the minds of His disciples to understand the scriptures after He proved He was no ghost, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:46-48) We who believe in Christ are so privileged that God left us “love letters” to explain His plan and the wonderful place we have in it. We cannot keep this to ourselves, but should as He asks, preach it to the whole world! 



Saturday, April 17, 2021

Stand for Truth

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




Saint Stephen was the first martyr of the Catholic faith. His story is short but very dramatic. When the Church was growing, there were some complaints that some widows were not getting their share of food. It was decided that the disciples would preach the Word, and seven men would be chosen to take care of food distribution. One of these men was Stephen. In Acts 6:8, Stephen is said to have performed "amazing miracles and signs". You would think more would have been written about this, but it is just one line, as if this was quite ordinary among the disciples of Jesus.


 Apparently Stephen did not merely distribute bread to the members of the Church, or he would not have gotten himself into a whole lot of trouble. Jews from all over would debate with him, and he would be able to defend the faith with wisdom. Some men lied about what he said, and he was brought before the Sanhedrin. In John chapter 6, Jesus told the crowds to "NOT work for perishable food but for food that will last unto eternal life." Stephen made sure to follow what Jesus said. Even before the Sanhedrin, he spoke with conviction, filled with the Holy Spirit, about God's plan through the ages. This infuriated the Jewish leaders and they dragged Stephen out of the city and stoned him. 


This does not happen today. But are we brave enough to stand up for truth, even if we will get stoned with criticism or censure? Are we willing to spread God's Word in a skeptical world, in the middle of a group of friends who would ridicule us, perhaps?

Friday, April 16, 2021

Impossible Math

“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish...” John 6:9




This gospel story reminds me of an interview of Dallas Jenkins, the director of the multi-season series “The Chosen”. In 2017, Dallas made a film “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone”. It bombed. Dallas and his wife were devastated and at their lowest point. In prayer, his wife seemed to get two messages, the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, and “I do impossible math”. They couldn’t figure out what it meant. 


That night, Dallas stayed up to write a ten page memo of what they did wrong and what they could have done instead. At 2 am, a message popped up on his screen: “Remember your job is not to feed the 5000 it’s only to provide the loaves of bread and fish.” The message shocked Dallas and he asked the sender why he sent it. “I don’t know. God just told me to send you that!” 


Dallas says his life can be divided by before that moment and after that moment because it was so pivotal for him. He realized it was not his job to produce the results, just to provide the bread! He then had the opportunity to direct a short film for his church after that called The Shepherd which was about the birth of Christ but told through the eyes of shepherds. 


After the success of The Shepherd, he and his partner Derral Eves used the film to raise money for the series, “The Chosen” through crowd funding. They were able to raise a total of more than $10 million from 19,000 people! It was enough to make the first season of the series. Dallas and his wife realized what God meant when He said, “I do impossible math.” 


God can do impossible math in our life as well if we give Him our loaves and fishes. What are our gifts and talents? What are the resources we have in our hands? Give it to God for Him to multiply! 


Thursday, April 15, 2021

The Spirit has no Limit!

“He does not ration His gift of the Spirit.” 

John 3:34




In my other Bible, it says, “for God’s Spirit is upon him without measure or limit”. There are many amazing, extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit, but just like any gift, we have to receive it, open it, use it, or else it will sit there gathering dust. The “charismatic gifts” are all wonderful, and I believe if we want it, we only have to ask and then to practice it. There is the word of wisdom, word of knowledge, increased faith, gift of healing and miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)


When I was young, I attended so many Life in the Spirit Seminars, and so many brothers and sisters laid their hands on me to baptize me in the Spirit, but I did not receive the gift of tongues. Well the ones who prayed over me said I already had it but it did not manifest itself  because I was too curious about all the crying and noise happening around me. One day I was determined to get the gift of tongues and started jabbering my mouth off in the morning. In the car on the way to work, I was still mouthing nonsense. My mom pitied me and said, “Patsy, you stop already.” I didn’t. The whole day I persisted with my mission. When I finally reached home after work, I locked my bedroom door, sat in my rocking chair, and was more determined not to stop until I received this gift from God. 


Suddenly, something was different. It was like a fountain came from inside, and the syllables I was uttering were not my own. I was filled with an indescribable joy and I knew that what was coming out of my mouth were words of praise. I asked God to make it English so I could understand, and He answered my prayer for a short while, then I continued to mouth a foreign tongue for a long time. It really was like I was drunk with heavenly wine, and I will never forget the experience. My sister who was listening outside my door, ran to her room and started spouting nonsense sounds. When she felt a force inside her wanting to gush forth, she got frightened, clamped two hands over her mouth and ran outside the room. The Spirit has no limit! 


Now I want the gift of healing, and I try to remember to pray over sick people even if I am shy or even lack faith. It is difficult to lay hands now as we are so far away from the sick so I just pray for people from where I am. One day, like the gift of tongues, I will have this gift if I am persistent and just have faith.