Thursday, September 30, 2021

Work for the Lord!

"The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few..." Luke 10:2

We used to sell a figurine in our shops with the words, “Work for the Lord— the pay isn't much but the retirement plan is out of this world." My sister overheard a lady tell her child, “I gave this to your dad and it changed his life." Apparently the father had been a workaholic and the family hardly saw him. After he received the figurine, he devoted more time to his family and to God. My sister thought that it was amazing that one figurine with a truthful message could change somebody’s life. After all, we had SO MANY inspirational figurines, posters, and assorted merchandise! It was awesome to think that many people were encouraged, and motivated when they came to visit our branches. 

Yes the harvest is abundant, and many more "laborers" are needed. God uses many ways to bring in the harvest. We may say we don't have the gifts necessary, but Jesus' apostles were the most unlikely bunch. He chose them not for what they were but for what He could make of them! At the start, they usually wanted to send the crowds away. They thought children were a nuisance. Jesus had to teach them for 3 years, and even that was not enough. He had to die so He could send a helper, the Holy Spirit, so they could become brave, wise and willing to give up their lives to be “laborers in the vineyard", and “fishers of men".

There is a book written in 1773 by a then 22 year old Tom Boston with a funny name, “The Art of Man Fishing". He wrote that the net of the gospel is woven from the PROMISES of the gospel. I think if we want to be effective fishers of men, we need to know the promises of the gospel, we need to believe and claim the promises, so that we can tell others with conviction that all Jesus said is true!

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Angels Watching Over Me

Today, September 29 is the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels. Many people love angel stories, and many more are rather skeptical. 

I believe that there are many things happening in the spiritual realm more real than what we see with our eyes. That is why we should not despair, and only trust and believe in what God is doing on our behalf. After my open heart surgery in December 2019, my sister prodded her husband to share what happened when he was praying for me during my procedure. He was very reluctant, saying repeatedly, “I’m not an angel person.” Then he narrated that while he was praying for me, he saw several large angels surrounding me during my operation. “Then I cried,” he said, embarrassed, “and I’m not a crying person either!” After that, he knew I was going to be all right. 

I cried too when he told me. Imagine, God sending angels to watch over me! We don’t really know but what if that is the ordinary run of events? If we pray that God will send His angels to watch over our children, our spouses, our homes and schools, our country, will He not do it? It may seem old fashioned to believe in benevolent beings taking care of us but the scriptural foundation is what Jesus said in Matthew 18:10, that each one of us has an angel. The pillars of the early Church believed in angels. St. Basil of Caesarea, a fourth century theologian wrote, “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him or her to life”. 

We commemorate this feast because we desire to celebrate God’s wonderful and faithful protection and providence. Many times we are unaware of our angels’ intervention, but there are many stories about how someone is saved by one who cannot be traced. 

I remember one story that came out in the news about a serious car accident involving a young girl. She could not be extracted from the wreck at first until a man who was dressed as a priest appeared and prayed over her and told the crew afterwards that they could now extricate her. They were able to, but when they looked for the man, he was nowhere to be found. He also did not appear in any of the pictures although many people saw him. The news agencies tried to trace him, calling up parishes, but they were unsuccessful.

Father, thank You that You command Your angels to guard us in all our ways. (Psalm 91:11)

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Leave your Crown Outside

“Lord, should we order down fire from heaven to burn them up?" Luke 9:54

Wasn't this presumptuous of James and John that they could actually order a holocaust to destroy the Samaritan village which ignored Jesus? Jesus rebuked them for their audacity. 

I wonder how many times we wished we could call down fire from heaven to destroy people who have insulted us, made us angry, or on a bigger scale, are unfit to hold public office? But what did Jesus do? He reprimanded them and set off for another town. How many of us, if we had absolute power would be able to walk away from using it against our enemies and detractors? We read of dictators and despots who actually get mad from the "hubris syndrome" of power. 

In Deuteronomy 28, we find many curses against those who do not obey God and insist on doing things their own way: madness, defeat, failure, confusion. "You will become a thing of horror to all." (verse 27) 

Humility, kindness, gentleness. We lose these if we are not careful. The day PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi received news that she was appointed to the company's board, she arrived home bursting with the 'huge' news. Her mother asked her whether she could go out and buy some milk before she told her "great news". Fuming, Nooyi got the milk, and when she returned, her mother reminded her, "Leave your crown out in the garage." 

We do need an imaginary crown, but only to remind us of how loved we are, how unique and precious we are to God. We are His sons and daughters, and that is why we need to learn how to be like His only begotten Son, who puts others first, who was an obedient servant first and foremost. 

Monday, September 27, 2021

Who is Greatest?

“For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.” Luke 9:48

St. Vincent de Paul, whose Feast Day we celebrate today, said, “You will find that charity is a heavy burden to carry, heavier than the bowl of soup and the full basket ... It is not enough to give us soup and bread ... You are the servant of the poor ... They are your masters, terribly sensitive and exacting you will see. It is only for your love alone that the poor will forgive you the bread you give them.”

St. Vincent dedicated his life to serving the forgotten ones, the “lost, the least and the last”. When Taal Volcano was acting up last year, many people gave clothes, shoes, and other things. It was so sad because some of the things donated were very old, and could not be used anymore. And winter clothes and snow boots were useless to the refugees. 

Mother Teresa always said do not give our left overs to the poor, that we should not treat the poor like a garbage bag and give what we have no use for. We should be ashamed of ourselves if we gave Jesus, the King of Kings, an old rag to clothe Himself! After all, Jesus said that what we do for the least of our brothers, we do for him. (Matthew 25:40)

How wonderful that there is a record of Jesus’ instructions and stories that we can read and read again. If we want to obey God, to learn about Him and His ways, we can do nothing better than to ponder His words and follow them. I know some brothers and sisters who have been reading the Bible and obeying. They are regularly feeding the homeless along Macapagal Avenue since December 2020. It is no easy task during this pandemic as they have to observe all the health protocols. Most of these street dwellers used to have regular jobs and places to stay. Because so many businesses have closed down, they are now just sleeping on the pavements or outside buildings. For just P1,200.00 we can feed someone one hot meal a day for a month. Will we give the King of Kings a meal at least? 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Pluck It Out!

"And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out." Mark 9:47

There is an amazing legend of Saint Lucy of Syracuse. She is the Patron Saint of the blind and of eye problems. She wanted to remain a virgin and refused to be married. When she had a suitor who pined for her beautiful eyes, she plucked them out and sent them to him, so that he would leave her alone. According to the story, God miraculously restored her eyes. Then another rejected suitor renounced her as a Christian to the magistrate. When she refused to give a sacrifice to the Emperor's image, she was sentenced to be placed in a brothel. When the guards came to execute the sentence, they found her body so heavy, they could not carry her even if they pulled her with a team of oxen!!! Finally, they decided to gouge her eyes out, but she was still able to see without her eyes.  Pictures of Saint Lucy often depict her eyes on a plate. 

The story is quite gory, and we cannot tell which part of it really happened! What is true is that Jesus did say if any part of our body causes us to sin, whether it be our eyes, our hand, our foot, our lips, it is better to pluck or cut it off, rather than we be “thrown into Gehenna, where the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched".  In the Bible, Gehenna was where some kings of Judah sacrificed children to the god Molech by throwing them into the fire in the Valley of Hinnom. In Jewish Rabbinic literature, it is where the wicked go when they die. 

Do we believe in Hell or not? Jesus obviously knew it existed. Lord, thank You for coming down, to speak our language, to teach us, but most of all, to save us from Gehenna. You have done everything so that we would not be thrown into Genenna, but to enjoy eternal life with You. May our eyes see as You see, with compassion, and love, for everyone we meet. 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Consider Your Ways

“Consider your ways!” Haggai 1:5

Today is the Feast Day of Padre Pio. He was my mother’s favorite saint and she always asked him to intercede for her concerns. After my father’s kidney stone operation, he was in very much pain, so my mom put her hand over his wounds, and asked for Padre Pio’s help. Immediately the pain subsided, and my father who is a Methodist and did not believe in the intercession of saints, asked her to continue praying over him. 

I was listening to a video of a man who knew Angelo, the great grandson of Padre Pio’s assistant for 25 years. Angelo grew up hearing his great grandfather tell amazing stories about the saint. One man came to visit Padre Pio and said, “Were you the priest...” and Padre Pio continued, “ in your dream? Yes.” The man had dreamed that he asked this priest for help for healing of his father, and his father was healed right away. 

Another story that Angelo remembers is about a woman who went to confession and Padre Pio turned her away after listening to her sins. “You have not confessed everything! Pray the rosary!” She came back a second time, and he turned her away again, “Basta! Pray some more!” The third time she came back for absolution, Padre Pio asked her to close her eyes, “What do you see?” She responded, “I see Jesus and a priest, but I do not know the priest.” Padre Pio then said that was because she had aborted him and he would have been a Pope! 

Padre Pio recommended an examination of conscience twice a day, in the morning to make us ready to face the day, and before we sleep at night. He said, “The person who meditates and turns his mind to God, who is the mirror of his soul, seeks to know his faults, tries to correct them, moderates his impulses, and puts his conscience in order." That is how we can consider our ways, and always be on God’s side. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Follow Me

“Follow me.” Matthew 9:9

Some days I think oh, I’m doing well, I’m not such a big sinner. Other days, I see my heart and mind the way God sees it, and I know He is disappointed in the filth and selfishness. The last time I got my x-ray results, it showed that my aorta is tortuous and calcified. I have a concrete picture of what the prophet Jeremiah said in chapter 17, verse 9: “More tortuous than anything is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?” 

When Jesus saw Matthew, the tax collector, he saw a sinner as well. Matthew’s heart was tortuous with greed, and who knows what else. Other Jews saw him as a traitor who collaborated with a foreign power the same way some of our leaders are giving away our seas, our lands, the livelihood of our people and the future of our children. It seemed to the Jews there was no hope for this tax collector. But Jesus saw him differently. He said, “Follow me,” and Matthew followed and the rest is history. 

Even if my heart is tortuous, Jesus knows there is hope. He sees my future and says, “Follow me anyway.” 

Monday, September 20, 2021

God’s Light Bearers

“No one who lights a lamp conceals it...” Luke 8:16

I remember a very well known, very beautiful woman once commenting, “I don’t know why people would want to shake my hand. They don’t know what I was doing and where I came from.” I couldn’t forget her saying this when I was quite young because I remember wondering what could she have been doing to make her say that! All of us have secrets like the most embarrassing thing to have happened to us, or where we keep our passwords, but Jesus said in this same passage that there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, nothing secret that will not come to light. 

Today it is not politically correct, especially in the West, to talk about religion and politics. There’s a lot of talk about relativism and about how we should respect others’ beliefs. We tiptoe around sharing the truth, the Word of God, because what is my truth may not be another’s. This is another way the world wants to stifle us from telling others the Good News. We are God’s light bearers and what God has revealed to us, we should not hide or be shy about proclaiming. The disciples and the saints were willing to die to proclaim the truth. 

Today is the feast day of Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn and Saint Paul Chŏng Ha-sang and their companions who were beheaded in Korea for being Christians. The government in Korea tried to suppress the spread of Christianity, and over ten thousand believers were martyred, because these men and women were willing to die instead of snuffing out the light of the Good News. Today the Church in Korea is one of the most vibrant and fastest growing in the world. Official data shows that more than 45% of South Koreans practice no religion, that about 22% are Buddhists, and that 29.2% are Christians.

“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:16) 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

How to be Great in the Kingdom of God

“They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.” Mark 9:33

Jesus put a child in the midst of His disciples to show them what it means to be great in the Kingdom of God. Sadly, the world has another definition. Many would prefer to be powerful, dominant, a ruler who can command legions rather than someone who is humble, compassionate, and with a servant heart. 

I am reminded of a story the author Robert Cooper told in his book, “The Other 90%”. When he was in Tibet on a research project, he took the time to go up a mountain with a guide and another man who looked so sad and much older than his years. When they reached the top, the valley below was breathtaking and the snowflakes began to fall. Robert noticed the older man’s eyes fill with tears, and the guide looked like 

he was about to cry as well. 

“All of my family was buried there,” the man explained, pointing to the beautiful valley, “before they took the bodies away.” He told of the time in 1959 when the Chinese Army took over their country. The Tibetan army was too small and could not protect them from the Chinese who destroyed their homes, temples, raped their women, and forbade them from praying. 

No country came to their aid. 

A long time ago, he was walking along when he met a friend. He put his hands together in the traditional Tibet greeting and said, “Tashi deley” which means “I honor the greatness in you”. A Red Army officer caught him doing this and accused him of praying and spreading religion. Even when he said he was just greeting his friend, the officer insisted that he would be made an example of. Perhaps they had been watching him for any false move because he had been speaking out about the way they were being treated. 

The next day, the Red Guard had brought together his wife, and his extended family, even his grandmother and all the children. Though he pleaded with them to just punish him, they laughed and said they would make sure that he would suffer the longest. The family were commanded to dig a hole. Then torn strips of cotton were soaked in gasoline and stuffed into the mouths of his family and set on fire. They were all pushed into the hole and buried alive and screaming. The man had to watch all this while he was being held tightly. 

The Red Army officers and his men no doubt thought they were special, significant people, part of a select, entitled group. They had the power to enslave, oppress, maltreat and torment others. There are men around us today who are like that. They deprive people of education, health care, a voice, and have no compunction to kill anyone who gets in their way. They are monsters, we think. 

But how about us? Was there any time we acted as if we were somebody special, entitled? I have done, many times, I’m ashamed to say. Those are evidence of the rotten roots we have to pull out. There is only one way to be great in the eternal way of things- “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10)

Friday, September 17, 2021

He is No Fool

“For we brought nothing into this world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it.” 1 Timothy 6:7

It is amazing how some of us live as if we will stay on this side of the world forever. Some amass wealth, property here and abroad, jewelry, old master paintings, and who knows what else. I come from a line of hoarders. My mom filled our attic rooms with craft materials she never was able use up in her lifetime. My aunt has a house overflowing with clothes, bags, shoes and figurines. I myself have all sorts of junk I can’t bear to throw away. I like reusing old styrofoam, clothes, ribbons, magazine pages, toilet paper rolls, even blister packs! 

Some years ago, I helped my sister and brother-in-law sort through the things in the house of my brother-in-law’s parents. His father had already passed away, and his mom stayed with him. There were piles and piles of clothing, towels, bedsheets, curtains, lots of kitchen ware, furniture and decor and souvenirs from all around the world. It was all worth a huge amount of money and now it was being sold in a garage sale for a pittance. Looking at it, what kept running through my mind was: You can only keep what you give away. 

C.S. Lewis wrote, “The only things we can keep are the things we freely give to God. What we try to keep for ourselves is just what we are sure to lose.” And Jim Elliot, who died a martyr trying to evangelize heathens, wrote in his notebook, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” If only we learn this early enough to do something about it! 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Little is Forgiven

“Little is forgiven the one whose love is small." Luke 7:47

What a dramatic turn of events in this chapter of Luke! Simon, a Pharisee, invites Jesus to dinner at his home. Jesus accepts, and as He reclines, his legs and feet stretched out away from the table, a woman of some reputation 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. We 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 into 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 ‘prophet’, 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 knows everything Simon is thinking, all the nuances, and He also knows what the woman is 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, September 15, 2021

Behold, Your Mother

Standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother... When Jesus saw His mother there and the disciple there whom He loved He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son." Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. 

John 19:25-27

How important was it to Jesus that we see Mary as our mother? So important that even when He was in pain, barely hanging on to life, Jesus says to Mary, “Woman, behold your son.” Then He assigned His mother to John, His beloved disciple. “Behold, your mother,” and the disciple took her with him into his home. 

Mary has a unique role in our salvation history. She is our mother, the mother of all the faithful. She is our example, a true and faithful disciple of the Lord, who obeyed God and embraced her calling, no matter how difficult and painful. When Jesus told the crowd, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother,” (Mat.12:49-50), 

She is the “woman” foreshadowed in the first Messianic prophecy in the Book of Genesis: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers.” (Genesis 3:15) She is the “woman clothed with the sun” in Revelation 12, who is victorious over the evil dragon who waits to devour her son who is destined to rule over all the nations. She is also the “woman” who asked Jesus to perform His first miracle even when He said it was not yet time. (John 2:1-11) 

Always, always, Mary will point us to Jesus. As our mother, she will always say, just as she told the servants at Cana, “Do whatever He tells you.” 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Where there is Despair

“Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!” Numbers 21:5

I can imagine all the complaints rising up to heaven during this time. Some of us are just plain tired with having to stay closeted at home with the same people day after day. And if we have to go to work, we are filled with anxiety when we ride public transportation. What if we bring home the virus to our children? Or our elderly parents? It does not help when we hear news about our relatives or friends being refused entry to hospitals and having to beg for oxygen tanks or medicine. And how about the students and teachers having a difficult time with lagging internet and no money to buy a good laptop? And doctors, nurses and frontliners who are mentally exhausted and near to breaking point? 

Each one of us has to deal with our own particular unique cross to bear. No one is exempt. But there is redemption when we see ourselves, our gifts from God, and our situation through God’s eyes. Where there is despair, God can bring hope.

Have you ever heard of Sparky Schultz? When he was in eighth grade, he failed all his subjects, and in High School he did so poorly that he got the lowest scores in the school’s history. He was shy, not at all popular and was left alone most of the time. He was known as a “loser” by all his classmates and even teachers. Although he didn’t think much of himself either, he did believe that he could draw. Even if nobody else thought much of his sketches, he was proud of them. He thought of submitting them for the school’s yearbook, but the team in charge didn’t want to use them. He mailed drawings to Walt Disney Studios and all he got in return was their form letter for rejection. 

But Sparky was confident in this gift he had and he started “drawing” himself in cartoons, showing himself as a chronic underachiever who couldn’t even fly a kite. Eventually, after much persistence and perseverance, his comic strip became widely popular as Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Peppermint Patty, and Snoopy became beloved by millions. “Peanuts” by Charles “Sparky” Schultz began in 1948, appeared in 2,600 newspapers in 21 languages. He drew all his cartoons by hand, and made more than $55 million in his lifetime.

What is not well known is he converted to Christianity after his deployment in World War II. “I preach in these cartoons, and I reserve the same rights to say what I want to say as the minister in the pulpit,” Schulz once said. He was a long time Sunday School teacher in the Midwest and California, and the margins of his Bible were filled with notes he wrote on them. 

Jonathan Merrit said: “Schulz was a devoted Christian; unshell the Peanuts and you’ll find the fingerprints of his faith. By mixing Snoopy with spirituality, he made his readers laugh while inviting them into a depth of conversation uncommon to the funny pages.” Charles Schultz recognized his talent, developed it, used it with perseverance, and with God, turned it into his greatest strength. We too can do the same. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

In Him My Soul Trusts

“The Lord is my strength and my shield. In him my heart trusts, and I find help; then my heart exults, and with my song I give him thanks.” Psalm 28:7

Is it not that everyone is kind to a bride on her wedding day and does everything to help and support her? She can do no wrong, and everyone is so willing to exult with her. 

When my sister and I had our double wedding 27 years ago, we did not have a wedding coordinator. I don't think they existed then! So we assigned our friends different tasks. We even had a back up car following our friends who had the rings, pillows, Bible, and other important things. When I asked a good friend to supervise the flowers, she asked, "That's all you need me to do?" She wanted to do so much more for us. The day before my sister Tina's wedding, my sisters and I were down on our knees fixing her vintage wedding gown. I think that is how God is with the Church, His bride. We can trust Him fully, and He is our help and supporter. 

In the Old Testament, there is a story of King David, who had been hunted down like an animal by King Saul. But David loved Saul's son Jonathan. When Jonathan died, David said, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”(2 Samuel 9:1) This is a picture of how God looks for ways to show us kindness, to bless us, to help us, to love us. 

We are as beautiful and precious as a bride to Him, no matter how ugly we see ourselves! And sometimes, we are the ones who hinder Him from loving us. Under the steady gaze of His love and mercy, do we hide and say, "No Lord, I am not worthy"? Or do we approach Him like an excited bride, hands open and willing to receive all His love? Yes Lord, help me, and show me Your kindness! Pour down Your favor!  

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Doing Good

“Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you with works.” James 2:18

A few years ago, Pope Francis said something in one of his daily homilies that created a lot of controversy. Pope Francis usually says mass in St. Martha's House, where he lives, and he gives homilies like a regular priest sometimes, without a text to read from. From one of these homilies it was reported around the world that he said that atheists could get to heaven by their good works.

Reading from the transcript, it is apparent that the Pope did not mean this. He said that we all, even atheists, have the duty to do good. And perhaps, because we were created by a good God we have that inner urge, that drive, that need to do good. He said, “The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation." And the Pope goes on to say that even non-believers "must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him. . . the Lord has created us in His image and likeness, and has given us this commandment in the depths of our heart: do good and do not do evil”. 

“And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good."

And here is the statement that caused such an outcry, when the Pope imagines a dialogue: “But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.” “There" does not mean heaven, but an agreement, a path towards peace. Indeed, Jesus made an example of the good samaritan who was a neighbor to someone in need. We all have a purpose, we all have good works to do. We all need to make time, to use our talents and treasure to bless others!

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Extraordinary in Our Future

“Stretch out your hand." Luke 6:10

All of us have a withered something we can stretch out to the Lord. It can be a talent we haven't used, a dream we've allowed to die, a relationship destroyed by unforgiveness...

The good news is Jesus is asking us to stretch it out to Him, for healing, restoration, to make it whole again. We shouldn't lose hope. There's always hope.

The thing is, and you may have heard this before, but it’s not about us. It’s about God and His plan and purpose for us. God has given us gifts and talents we should use to build His kingdom, if we want to hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” from His lips one day. Perhaps the dream was something God planted in our heart, and we’ve given it up because it was way too big for us. We thought, “I can’t do this!” But God can! God can do the impossible! 

I was just listening to John Bevere, a best selling author, share how he barely passed his English class, and how it took him 4 hours to write two pages. In the summer of 1991, he heard God tell him to write a book. He didn’t, because he thought God had him mistaken with someone else. But ten months after two women from two different states approached him with the same message: that if he didn’t write the book God had given him, God would give it to someone else, and John would have to give an accounting one day for what he did with the gift God give him. So John wrote the book. Now John Bevere has tens of millions of books around the world, in 111 languages, in 226 countries. Then he had an app developed, the MessengerX to make resources available to pastors and Christian leaders around the world for free. 

What gifts and talents, what dreams, has God given us? Even if it is ‘withered’, let us stretch it out to the Lord for revitalizing, restoring and healing. We have an extraordinary God and as His children, we have “extraordinary” written all over our future! 

Sure Foundation

“If you listen to my words and act on it, you will be like a man building a house, 

who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock..." Luke 6:43-49

When I was 12 years old, I clearly remember listening to the news about a 6-storey apartment building that collapsed after an Intensity 7 earthquake. The name will stick forever in my memory. Ruby Towers. 

More than 200 survived this tragedy but many more were not found even after a mammoth rescue effort involving more than 6000 volunteers. The Arellano High school in front of the site was like a morgue, with body parts strewn all over and the smell of dead bodies permeating the air.

 Many people were charged for this disaster, from city officials who approved its construction and were supposed to inspect the plans and require tests to be done on the soil, to the architect and structural engineer who made a poor design, the owners who used substandard materials to save money and deviated from the approved design.

In Luke chapter 6, Jesus warns us that if we do not listen to Him, and act on His words, this is what will happen to our life! God has a wonderful plan and purpose for our life. If we deviate from that blueprint which takes into consideration our gifts and talents, our natural inclinations, our passions and interests, we will be a disaster waiting to happen. Our "house" will crumble.

Let us build our lives on the only sure foundation. That foundation is a person, Jesus Christ. 

Friday, September 10, 2021

Be Opened

And gazing up to heaven, Jesus groaned and said to him: “Ephphatha,” which is, “Be opened.” 

Mark 7:34

When people brought a deaf and mute man to him, and begged Him to heal the man, Jesus did something different. Jesus took the man away from the crowd, away from all the gawking onlookers waiting for miracles. He then put His fingers into the man’s ears, and spitting, touched his tongue. Then gazing up to heaven, Jesus groaned and commanded the man’s ears to hear. This is a foreshadowing of the Ephphatha ritual in the Sacrament of Baptism, where the priest touches the child’s ears and mouth with his thumb: ears to receive Christ's word, and mouth to proclaim his faith "to the praise and glory of God.

It’s good to go away with Jesus now and then, to leave the hustle and bustle of our day, to stop checking our phones, and not be slaves to the urgency of our to do lists. What do we do first thing in the morning? That sets the pace of our day. Do we spend time with the Lord and plant His Word in our hearts first before allowing the world with its myriad concerns to intrude? Just like the deaf and mute man, if we go away with Jesus, we may be able to hear Him speak to us. If we go away with Jesus, He can open our ears to hear rightly, our eyes to see the truth, and our tongue to speak life giving words to others!

Sometimes our days with all its problems and concerns can seem like a bunch of cords messed up together. When I try to untangle all of it, pulling at this and that with no plan just messes it up more. But if I concentrate on one cord, deliberately taking it over and under, in and out, separating it from the others, I am more successful. 

That way, we can follow Jesus’ advice in Luke 10:38-42. We can choose the one cord, the “one thing”, the better portion. A joyful life of intimacy with the Lord awaits us if we put the Word before the world! 

He Will Use Sinners

“Jesus departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called a Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.” Luke 6:12-16

Jesus prayed the whole night, and when he went down He chose after this night of prayer, His twelve apostles, fishermen, a tax collector, and one who would betray him. Are we missing something here? When we pray the whole night, we expect God’s guidance, His wisdom, His light shining on our concerns to give us the right path to take. But why did Jesus choose these men? 

Why did God choose Rahab the harlot, David the adulterer, Jacob the thief, Judah the fornicator, Tamar the deceiver, Abraham the liar… the list goes on. And the most surprising thing is all these sinners are listed in the genealogy of Christ! They are everyday sinners just like you and me, and God CHOSE them, USED them! Why? 

In Colossians 2:8, we read St. Paul’s words: “See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to the tradition of men, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ.” We see here that God does not choose according to the standards of the world. He has a different tradition, a different economy, a different culture. 

While we run around in search of wealth, beauty, fun, popularity, power or fame, God does not put any value on these things. What He wants more than anything is to bring us to a relationship with Him, and to one day bring us to heaven. And He will use sinners like you and me to accomplish His purpose. 

All Things Work for Good

“We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

In 2009, we started visiting the son of a friend of ours who was incarcerated in the city jail because of a skewed justice system. He was just 23 years old, and the prison was a horribly crowded place. Inmates slept on stairways, holes in the ceiling, and all sorts of cramped areas if they did not have any money to pay for bed space. 

It was a terrible, terrible thing for this young man to have to stay in jail for several years but we saw how God made this situation work for good. As we visited him weekly, we started a prayer meeting and got to know the horror stories of some of the inmates. He admitted that if God hadn't allowed him to go to jail, his life may have gone on a downward spiral. But he grew in the Lord, his heart expanded, and he recognized his gifts. He didn't use to read, but he started reading lots of books. When before his jail time, he was concerned with acquiring the best cellphone and having a good time, he began to appreciate simple joys. He also cared about the other inmates. He made really tasty sandwiches, and served them to his fellow inmates. He especially tried to show care to those without visitors, because those men sometimes got crazy!

He started drawing and painting after he had a dream. He asked his mother to get him brushes, paints and canvas. He started a painting club with some of the other prisoners, and even held an exhibit. He started painting the inmates in stark black and white, and a well known gallery held an exhibit of those amazing artworks which received much acclaim. After the judge declared him innocent of the crime, he was freed. I lost touch with him but I know he continued to paint and have exhibits not only in the Philippines but Europe as well. 

Many times when I remember people I once journeyed with and then parted ways, I entrust them to God confident that He who began the good work in them will bring it into completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). 

Piercing Light

“Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.” Luke 6:37

I have to deal with this because I do a lot of condemning especially with politicians and the insane things they do and say. When he was alive, my dad used to tell me that God answers his questions. He’s Methodist, not Catholic like me, so he thinks what Catholics do with statues and processions and rosaries is crazy. One time he asked God specifically about the Black Nazarene and that yearly chaotic procession of thousands of barefooted devotees. God answered, “Let them be.” Daddy felt like God was saying to him not to concern himself with it, that it was God’s concern. “I knew it was God speaking because that would not have been my answer,” my dad told us. 

Condemning is always God’s concern, not ours. In the third chapter of John, Jesus says, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; but he who does not believe has been JUDGED ALREADY...” 

When Jesus came into the world, He was like a piercing light into men’s souls. He did not have to sit on a judgement seat to condemn us. The light reveals all our sins, flaws, hypocrisy, and meanness. Let God do the judging and let us do our part. We just need to repent, believe in Jesus and obey Him.  That way, we can stay in His light. 

God Makes a Way

“Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye...” Luke 6:41

I have to admit I am a very judgmental person. It’s one of those sins I keep confessing to the priest and can’t get rid of. So I can imagine Jesus saying to me, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” 

All of us, with no exemption, are sinners and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). And yet... I find it’s always “and yet” with our Father. He forgives us. He looks at us with compassion. He opened a way for us to get into heaven and have eternal life. 

God always makes a way when there is no way. For us and for others. When we see the worst in others, we just need to pray for them. To see them through God’s eyes of love and compassion. It is sometimes, maybe often, difficult to believe God loves the most obnoxious person on the planet, but He does. Perhaps that’s the reason he or she is still alive right now, driving us nuts. Perhaps that’s the reason we are still alive right now. God is giving us more chances to learn, to grow into more loving, generous, kind, servant-hearted people fit for His Kingdom. 

As St. Paul said in 1 Timothy chapter 1, “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief. Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Saturday, September 04, 2021

Lord of the Sabbath

 "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." Luke 6:5

If you've watched Fiddler on the Roof like I have (many times!!!), you've seen how the Jews kept the Sabbath holy as God commanded them to do in Exodus 20:8-11.  “Remember the Sabbath day, keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord God, in it you shall not do any work...The Lord blessed the Sabbath and hallowed it." In the movie, we see how the family gathers together and Tevye and Golde lead the prayers.

It's funny how most of us, including me, find it so hard to follow God's teachings and laws when it is actually for our own good. Consider when God wants us to forgive those who have wronged us. Forgiveness sets us free from bondage. And when God teaches us to work on 6 days a week and set aside one day for rest, it is also for our good! It is a gift to us, a day in which to celebrate His goodness and faithfulness. If we learn to focus on God one day a week, we will be restored, refreshed and strengthened. “The joy of the Lord is our strength!"

 We should gather as a family, as a community, as a parish, and recognize our God as the giver of every good gift. God wants to bring us into His rest. What God finds good, He wants to share with His people He calls as His own. Just as on the seventh day He rested and enjoyed the work of His hands (Genesis 2:1-2), seeing how good it all was, so too does God want us to stop and experience that same joy. 

If we set aside one day a week to follow God's 4th commandment, it is like saying, "Lord God, I put You first, not the things my hands have made. I recognize that everything comes from You and I honor You. I want to receive every blessing You have in store for me!"

Friday, September 03, 2021

New Frontiers

“No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one. Otherwise he will tear the new and the piece from it will not match the old cloak. Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. Rather, NEW WINE MUST BE POURED INTO FRESH WINESKINS." Luke 5:36-38

I believe God's Word is always new, ever fresh, eternally alive and exciting. However it does not always appear that way, does it? That is because it is put into OLD WINESKINS! I believe that we all need to find fresh new ways of understanding, listening, obeying, teaching, loving. We can't do the same old, same old.

When we went to Europe a long time ago, I noticed the magnificent churches were filled with older people. How do we reach the younger generation?

How do we, as Jesus asked us to do, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch?" 

Luke 5:4

These days, what are our children into? Twitter, Instagram, You Tube, Tiktok, Discord, etc. Young people of today have a new way of interacting, a different way of learning, and there are myriads of ways to reach out! It is exciting to see, experience and use these new frontiers! Because of the pandemic, we were forced to bring our masses, community gatherings, teachings and meetings online. So many new opportunities and possibilities! But whether or not we have the capability or not, we should all be winemakers, filled with the Spirit of God, excited about what God wants us to do and HOW He wants us do it!