Monday, February 28, 2022

All Things Possible

“For men it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” Mark 10:27

Many people prefer to read self- help books rather than the Bible, and there’s a plethora of self-help books out in the market today. Perhaps the first self-help book was written in 1859 by Samuel Smiles, and his first line was, "Heaven helps those who help themselves." Since then, the marketplace has exploded with not only books but videos, support groups, life coaches, counselling sessions, etc. One of the more well known life coaches, Tony Robbins, is called the "CEO Whisperer" because of his high profile clients.

But God is the ultimate "whisperer". Before we go to self-help books or coaches, we should go first to the source of all wisdom and help. We should quiet down and leave the hustle and bustle of our life, to ask God to walk with us wherever we go. We should take the time to talk to Him and ask Him questions. We should read the instructions in the greatest "self-help" book of all time, the Bible!

Someone said that man knows so much about the cosmos, but is a stranger to himself. And although I know that some self-help books are great, it is a better path to seek FIRST the ONE who created us, who knows us inside and out. We are no stranger to Him!

Sunday, February 27, 2022

From the Abundance of our Heart

“A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45

It is so sad that here in Philippines, we have a President who curses, who lies blatantly, who insults anybody, even the Pope, and accuses people of serious crimes without proof. I do not know if it is because of this that many people take to cursing and misinformation on social media as if there is no consequence to their eternal soul.  During this campaign period, so much fake news has been spread to destroy the image of a candidate who has been serving the poor ever since she was a young Human Rights lawyer. 

From the abundance and fullness of our heart, we speak. What is in our hearts? What do we fill our hearts with? Next Wednesday, it is already the start of Lent, a “springtime” for our souls. A time of spring cleaning. What kind of person do we want to be? A person who speaks the truth? We have to make sure to learn from the truth teller Himself, Jesus. The truth cannot be changed. It is not in the mind of the thinker. The truth needs no thinker to validate it. And no matter how many times a lie is said, it is still a lie. 

If we want to be a person full of gratitude, we need to fill our heart with the goodness of what God has prepared for us. It is hard for impatience, unforgiveness, resentment, and anxiety to take root where flowers of gratitude are planted. More often than not, we take for granted our blessings. The Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, has this to say: “If the only prayer you say throughout your life is ‘Thank You’, then that will be enough.” 

Sometimes it is very hard to choose our thoughts, and Joyce Meyer, author of the best selling ‘Battlefield of the Mind, wrote’, “The enemy knows that if he can get enough wrong things going on in our heads, they will eventually begin to come out of our mouths.” I find that I have to try very hard not to lose the train of my thoughts because I can be so scatter brained! So I always need the Holy Spirit to help me. We cannot do it on our own. Come Holy Spirit! Fill our hearts with only good things! 

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Like a Little Child

"I assure you that whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a little child shall not enter into it." Mark 10:15

The cute little baby of my niece, when asked, “Who made Elijah?” will answer enthusiastically and with no hesitation, “God!” “Who made Apa?” “God!” “Who made Mamita?” “God!” 

When my son Josh was a toddler, I asked him, "Why are you so cute?" He responded right away with, "Because God loves me!" Of course I wrote that in my journal along with so many other stories about him. A little child has a simple, trusting faith in a God who loves completely, absolutely, unceasingly. How about us? We may have faith but we always have so many questions and buts, that our faith can go up and down depending on our situation and what we see around us. Instead of depending upon our Father who desires only to bless us, we usually struggle to do it all ourselves. 

A child can rest peacefully in his mother or father's arms with absolutely no care in his mind. Here he is protected. Here he is beloved. As he grows, his parents will teach him how to relate to other people, give him rules to follow and inculcate values. They just don't leave him out in the streets to fend for himself. 

The same is true with our Father. He doesn't leave us in this confusing maze of a world without help. In Joshua 1:8, He tells us, "Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." If we approach reading the Bible like a little child at his Father's knee, trying to glean every bit of wisdom from it, we will be sure to get the blessing our Father is so eager to give us! 

Thank You Lord for loving me so much! How amazing that You find me precious, the apple of Your eye, when I am just a speck in this vast cosmos! Thank You that You desire to show me how to live so that I would be happy, fruitful and blessed by You!

“Who made Elijah?”


Friday, February 25, 2022

God is Kind and Merciful

“For as the heavens are high above the earth, ​so surpassing is His kindness toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, ​so far has He put our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:11-12

The circumstances of our life may be very hard. People can be cruel. Life can deal us a bad card. But it won’t change the fact that God is kind, gracious, loving, faithful and we can always expect Him to show up for us. I always learn something when I listen to Christine Caine. Compared to her life, my life is a fairytale. 

When she was born, no one cared enough to give her a name. On the line which says “Name” in her birth certificate, is written “unnamed”. She was adopted by a very poor Greek immigrant couple who lived in public housing in Sydney. For 12 years she was sexually abused by different men. She was just covered in shame, rejection, insecurity, fear, and anger. 

Today, she is a powerful, very talkative and joy-filled Christian speaker and author. In 2008, she and her husband Nick Caine founded the A21 Campaign, an NGO that fights human trafficking in several countries.  They also started Equip & Empower Ministries, to help Christian churches develop and grow. If that isn’t enough, in 2015, Christine and Nick founded an organization to celebrate every woman’s passion, purpose and potential. Propel Women is designed to empower and equip women to lead, and respond to God’s call. 

The road from being unnamed to being secure in God’s love and blessing for Christine was bumpy. Today she can proclaim that yes, God is kind and He is faithful. But first she had to surrender to God, and she had to offer Him all the broken fragments of her life. Like the boy in the story of the “Loaves and Fishes, and the Feeding of the Five Thousand” in Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9 and John 6, she gave her brokenness to God, and He did something miraculous. She forgave all the men who abused her, she broke down and cried and cried and cried and then cried some more. But God used all her experiences, all her pain, to enable and empower her to save many women today from sexual abuse and slavery in Ukraine, Greece, Bulgaria, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Norway, the United States, South Africa, Thailand, the Netherlands, and Australia.

May we give God our brokenness, our pain, all that we are, that in His kindness and compassion, He may mold us, and make us into the men and women He has envisioned us to be. 

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Salted with Fire

“Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid, with what will you restore its flavor? Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.” 

Mark 9:49

“Salted with fire”. How can we all be salted with fire? It seems we will be purified, then purified again! I think this means that everyone of us, with no exceptions, will have our own cross to bear. But I do believe our crosses are chosen specially for us. 

Salt and fire are purifiers. Fire is used to refine gold, remove its impurities. The gold melts when heated and all the impurities like base metals float to the surface where they can be removed. When all the impurities are gone, then we are left with 24 karat gold. 

When I get a sore throat, I usually gargle with salt and warm water. Saltwater can destroy fungi, bacteria, and all sorts of irritants in the throat. It neutralizes acids that builds up in the throat and thus helps to balance the pH level to prevent disease. 

Salt was also useful back when there were no refrigerators. People used to pack fish and meat in salt to preserve it. Easily, we understand when Jesus spoke about Christians being the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13), He meant that we were to be “preservatives” of this decaying world. That’s why we read in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 

So there were many things Jesus meant when He said everyone will be salted with fire. He will not only purify and sanctify us, we are also to serve as a preservative that will stop or at least delay the moral and spiritual decay of this world. We should not lose our purity or we will not be able to “flavor” or be a blessing to others. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Saint Polycarp Stands Firm

“You have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears.” 

James 4:14

It is the Feast Day of Saint Polycarp of Smyrna. As I do not know much about him, I decided to read up on him. You know doing these meditations every day is really more for myself than anyone else. That’s what my son said to me once. I then realized that he knew me better than I knew myself. Although I read the Bible every day, and listen to talks about Scripture, I do not remember much, until I think about it and write it down. 

According to Irenaeus, a Bishop, and Tertullian, a Christian author, St. Polycarp was personally discipled by John the Apostle. He was appointed Bishop of  Smyrna (somewhere in Turkey) by some of the original apostles. Because he refused to burn incense in honor of the Roman Emperor, he died a martyr, bound, burned at the stake, and pierced with a spear when the fire did not kill him! Before he died, he said, “I bless you, Father, for judging me worthy of this hour, so that in the company of the martyrs I may share the cup of Christ."

St. Polycarp was a puff of smoke in Christian history, but he made a mark. He left one letter, only one, which he wrote to the Philippians. His letter quotes from all the Books of the New Testament. This is just a fragment of it:

“Stand fast, therefore, in these things, and follow the example of the Lord, being firm and unchangeable in the faith (1 Corinthians 10:1; Jude 3), loving the brotherhood (1 Peter 2:17), and being attached to one another (cf. 1 Peter 3:8), joined together in the truth, exhibiting the meekness of the Lord in your intercourse with one another (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:1), and despising no one. When you can do good, defer it not (Galatians 6:10), because alms delivers from death. Be all of you subject one to another (1 Peter 5:5) “having your conduct blameless among the Gentiles,” (1 Peter 2:12) that you may both receive praise for your good works, and the Lord may not be blasphemed through you. But woe to him by whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed (cf. 2 Peter 2:1-2)! Teach, therefore, sobriety to all, and manifest it also in your own conduct.”

Even if our life is a puff of smoke, let us be, like St. Polycarp, firm and steadfast in the faith! 

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Who is Jesus?

“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Matthew 16:15

Do we really know who Jesus is? Where do we get our idea about Jesus, His character, what He values, what He did and what He said? Do we get it from the source of truth, the Bible? Or do we make up our own God by our experiences, and what others say, or read in other materials? It is easy to get misled because there is a great deceiver that looks for all the ways and means to beguile us and hoodwink us. The only trustworthy starting point is to read from the Bible what Jesus says about Himself. 

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

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

Jesus won't have to ask Daniel, "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus already knows the answer by the life Daniel lived and continues to live. How about us?

Lord, may I be faithful to Your calling. May I live in such a way as to show You that I know You, love You and obey You. May others who know me, know as well that I am Your servant. 

Monday, February 21, 2022

Humility Comes From Wisdom

“Beloved: Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show his works by a good life in the humility that comes from wisdom.” James 3:13

In some translations of this verse, humility is interchangeable with meekness. First comes wisdom, and then follows humility and meekness. Totally opposite from what the world would tell us, right? Usually when one is wise in the world’s ways, he is superior, and usually arrogant and thinks he is always in the right. The humble man is one with low self-esteem and thinks he should always be at the back and bottom of the rung.

But what is Biblical humility? I always like to study this, because I am not naturally humble. I can be over confident at times, that’s what my sisters tell me anyway. I certainly don’t set myself up as less than I am or put myself down in any way. But that’s not what being humble is in any scriptural sense.

Could it be that being humble merely means we recognize how big a God we serve, and we see ourselves as really so insignificant but His amazing love changes all that? We can be a Moses who was a friend of God, but who knew the size of His God. That is why Moses was a “very humble man, more so than anyone on the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3) Moses was a witness to so many miracles God was capable of. How about David? In many verses of 2 Samuel 7, we see King David’s humility before God: “Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” The King deeply respected God, and in His prayer, He showed how amazed he was at how God wanted to honor him. “How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you!” He believed God’s promises to him and he was awed! 

If we are to be wise, we too should know God’s promises to us. Like King David, if we believe in His promises from of old, we too will be deeply humbled and amazed at how much God loves and treasures us. Perhaps we already know these promises, and they have grown stale from rereading. We need to go back and ask the Holy Spirit to imbue them with new life. After all, we are all sons and daughters of the King of Kings. There is no limit to what Almighty God can do for us! 

Loving Needs Practice

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same.” Luke 6

The way I see it, love is the masterpiece of the human heart. I have been painting in my faith journal since 2006. Back then, my paintings were awkward and elementary. Just simple and childlike. From painting every day, I have learned how to shade and use colors. I'm no expert, but I practice drawing. For instance, it took me 2 years to learn how to draw hands. It’s taking longer to master drawing birds.

It's the same with loving. It needs practice. How can we expect to love as Jesus loves? He who gave His life for His friends AND enemies and sinners. He who allowed His body to be broken and mangled just so those He loved would have joy, peace and love, and ultimately, be with Him in heaven? Loving the way Jesus loves takes a choice every day. We need to be conscious that God loves each one of us so much, we will have no choice but to spread that love to others. We have to look at others and see them the way God sees them. Our annoying boss. God knows his heart, God sees his pain. Terror teacher? She has fears too. A father who refuses to be helped. A friend who drinks secretly. A son who constantly feels rejected no matter what you do. God sees all our idiosyncracies, our weaknesses, our sins. But He loves us anyway. He doesn't love us because we are pretty, or because we perform well at our work, or because we are always kind and helpful. He loves first. Lord, teach us every day to love like You!

Lord, only You can help us make a masterpiece of our life!

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Taming the Tongue

“…no man can tame the tongue…from the same mouth comes blessing and cursing.” James 3:8

We really have to be very careful about our speech even in our anger, because it can haunt other people. A staff of ours inadvertently told a supplier something that was supposed to be confidential because it was detrimental to our negotiations. I got so mad that I told the staff that if she was like that, she could not be successful in business. Now that our staff is not with us anymore, and she has tried to go into business for herself, she remembers what I said, and blames me for her failures. We never expect that our words will have long lasting, detrimental effects. Even if we apologize, as I have done, and tried to help, giving suggestions, the damage has been done.

On the positive side, when we bless others with our words, it can also have long lasting and wonderful results. When Dodie Osteen was young, she got polio and as a result she had one foot shorter than the other. She was quite self conscious about that as she wore different sized shoes, and they did not look nice. But one day, Dr TL Osbourne said, “Look at Dodie, she walks like a Princess.” Ever since then, Dodie still hears those words in her head. “I see myself walking like a Princess,” she says.

Teachers have so much influence over their students, and can imbue them with self confidence if they recognize their gifts and encourage them to use it. Same with parents, and managers, and husbands and wives. Everybody really! We all have that amazing tool, the tongue, that can make or break people. Let us all be encouragers, and inspirers, and bless others with our words.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Show No Partiality

“My brothers and sisters, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person with shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here, please,” while you say to the poor one, “Stand there,” or “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs? “ James 2:1-4

I long for the day our Philippine politicians will not be so entitled. When I went to Vancouver, I saw a man speaking in the sidewalk, no bodyguards, no fanfare, and I learned he was running for Mayor. We won’t see that here. In other countries you don’t have the names of councilors or mayors on imposing concrete structures as if the land it is on is their own private property. Here if a politician steals billions from public funds they can run for a position. If an old man steals bread because his family is hungry, he lands in prison. Obviously this is so contrary to the teachings of Jesus. 

But feeling privileged is not confined to politicians, rich or important people. I’ve acted entitled several times. We need to watch out for those times, when we feel above other people. For example, when we think we can call out a security guard for correcting us, when he is actually just doing his job. One time I was very arrogant with a bank teller. Even if I was in the right as I believed, I could have been more polite. There are many ways God teaches us to be humble. We should be sensitive to those times, and act as if the person we are speaking to is a brother or sister. We should see them through the eyes of Jesus, and always act in love.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Be Doers of the Word

“Be doers of the Word and not hearers only." James 1:22

What if I had to leave our business for a month to set up another office and I left someone in charge? Every day I would send instructions via email about what needs to be done, what to follow up on, what employees needed to do what, etc. At the end of the month, I come back and I see that the office is a mess, employees are not at their desks and the one I put in charge of everything, was nowhere to be found! When I ask questions, I find out that every day, they went through my instructions, underlined it, divided into groups and discussed it. BUT THE INSTRUCTIONS WERE NOT OBEYED!

Sometimes Christians can be very diligent about studying the Word. The words in our Bibles are underlined, encircled, colored in. If you look at my old Bible, almost all the words are highlighted. I have notes in the margins. In my new Bible I have paintings on many of the pages. But what matters to God?

Jesus said in John 14:15, "If you love me, keep my commandments." In Matthew 12:50, Jesus stretched out His hand toward his disciples and said, "Whoever does the will of My Father is My brother, My mother, My sister." If we want to be part of God's family, we need to be doers of the Word!

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Every Good and Perfect Gift

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

The whole Bible is God revealing Himself to us. It is the invisible God made visible. Ultimate love observable. 

When God created man in His image, He made them the perfect environment, with everything they needed and could ever want. But alas, He also gave them the gift of choice, the gift of free will. “You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat of it you are surely doomed to die." 

Put a kid in Disneyland. It's huge. So many exciting things to do. Almost an infinite number of delights to experience. Then you say, "You can do anything, eat anything, have anything, just don't touch THIS!" All of a sudden, his desire just zooms into touching the forbidden! Our rebel hearts are just like that kid's! God has given us so many blessings and gifts. Do we focus on these gifts, or do we focus on what we do not have and yearn for? 

I read in The Anawim Way that the first garden we are given to cultivate and care for is our own soul. We have choices to make every single day, whether to nurture our spiritual life, or make it a desert. The Cross is the new "tree of life in the middle of the garden". 

Thank You Father that although You banished man from Paradise, You made a way for us to experience fellowship with You again through Jesus. Your love breaks through our rebelliousness, our willfulness, our sinfulness. Help us to see the garden You have placed us in through Your loving eyes. 

Monday, February 14, 2022

Count It All Joy

“Count it ALL joy whenever you face trials of many kinds." James 1:12

At a party in 2014, I met Jessica Cox. She was born without arms due to a rare birth defect, but she would not trade her life for the world. She is the world's first licensed armless pilot and first armless black-belt in the American Taekwondo Association. She uses her feet as most people use their hands as she has not worn her prosthetic arms since she turned fourteen. She can drive, type on a keyboard, place her contact lenses, all with the use of her feet. She is also a certified scuba diver. 

By any standard she is an amazing lady. During her speech, she said something to the effect that if she had a choice, she would choose NOT to have arms. 

Her greatest accomplishment is maturing from someone who was angry and upset about being differently abled to being able to celebrate that and use it as an opportunity to give hope and inspiration to others. Today she is an awesome Christian motivational speaker who shows us that with God nothing is impossible! 

Truly when we seek God with all our heart, our trials and challenges become stepping stones to all God wants to accomplish through us! ❤️

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Jesus, Living Water

“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6

Father Rene Regalado was found mauled, with multiple gunshot wounds on his head, last January 24 in Malaybalay city. Father Rene was known as “Paring Bukidnon” because he had been endorsing organic farming and had written about issues of farmers in his social media posts. He is the fourth priest to have been murdered since 2017. Father Richmond Nilo was shot dead as he was preparing to say mass in the Nuestra Señora de la Nieve Chapel in Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija. He was persistently pursuing a rape case against a man who was accused of molesting 3 altar boys. Two more priests who were murdered were known political activists working for justice for the people. 

There is an old song by the group Kingston Trio named “Desert Pete”. It tells of a water pump in the desert. When travelers cross the dry dusty cactus desert, they are joyfully surprised to find this water pump. There’s a bottle of water and a note stuck to to the pump which says, “This pump is old, but she works. You’ve got to prime the pump. You must have faith and believe. You’ve got to give of yourself ‘fore you’re worthy to receive. Drink all the water you need but leave the bottle full for others.”

The traveler has to pour all the water in the bottle over the pump to get it to work. If he drinks all the water first, the pump won’t work, he’ll get thirsty again and the next travelers won’t be able to drink. 

Life is like that. We are all travelers, pilgrims, thirsty and hungry for the meaning of life and our purpose. Some of us, just take our one life and spend it on ourself. But we will soon be empty again. Some of us meet Jesus and empty ourselves into His hands. He will be the living water for us, and He will give our life meaning and purpose. 

I do not know much about the priests who were murdered but I am pretty sure they knew Jesus and were willing to pour out their lives for Him and for others. Lord, be with Your people and fight for us. Amen.

Give, Give, Give

“How many loaves do you have?” Mark 8:5

In our world today I marvel at how some people are not satisfied with all the wealth and power they have amassed. They want more, more, more. We need to learn from this and see that in God’s Kingdom it is the ones who have learned to give, give, give who are blessed and are able to bless  others. 

In the parable of the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus’ disciples cannot see how the multitude can be fed. “Where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them here in this deserted place?” they asked Him, and He responded, “How many loaves do you have?” They replied, “Seven.” 

This Gospel story reminds me of Benjie Abad, or Mang Urot, who put up a soup kitchen in 2012 to feed the hungry and the homeless three times a week. It was called Karinderia ni Mang Urot. He cooked the food in his own home, and then brought it to the parking lot of the Bank of Commerce along Quezon Avenue and Examiner st. in Quezon City. He started this with no fanfare and no marketing, but eventually people came to volunteer their time and their resources. When my dad was alive, he would contribute rice and other food. We joined in ladling out soup and talking to the street children a couple of times. Our staff in the office made a project of it and were blessed to share their blessings by cooking the food and distributing it to about eighty people who gathered there. Many spent their birthdays there and found joy in feeding the hungry and having fellowship with people you wouldn’t usually meet in the normal course of a day. 

When the lockdown started and gatherings were not allowed, Mang Urot had to find a new way of feeding the hungry and he started going around to find them and distribute the food every three or four days. When donations kept coming in, he was able to get six people on motorcycles giving out 1,200 relief packs for the homeless inside Metro Manila. Mang Urot saw a need and decided to help instead of criticizing the government for its failures. 

How many times have I not given because what I had was a pittance compared to the vast sea of need I saw around me? During disasters like floods and earthquakes, how many times did I look on in helplessness? Did I not have five barley loaves and two fishes? 

I am just like the people who want more, more, more, if I cannot give, give, give. God provides more than enough for us to share. Let us be His partners in blessing the world! 

Friday, February 11, 2022

Choose the One Thing

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 Jesus, 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! 

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Crumbs from Your Table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

What Defiles

“But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him. From within the man, from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.” Mark 7:20-23

When my mother was still alive, we went on a tour of pilgrimage sites in Europe because we found out she had tongue cancer. On the very first day, we waited to have lunch in a Chinese restaurant in Paris. While seated inside, we noticed that the waiters removed the tea cups from a pail, and the insides of the cups were filthy with the tea residue. After discussion, we left, along with many of our tour mates. The dirt inside the tea cups was easy to see. Even the pail was yukky. What an experience in one of the most beautiful cities in the world! 

In contrast, only God can see what is inside us! Jesus saw that the Pharisees were hypocrites, that they were experts in making people feel guilty about small matters of the law, while they themselves neglected what was more important to God, loving our neighbor and putting God first. In Psalm 139, David wrote, “O Lord, You have probed me and You know me...You understand my journeys and my rest you scrutinize, with all my ways You are familiar.” 

Yes, God knows us inside out. We cannot hide from Him. He made us and we are His. We cannot fool Him. Just as He probes us, let us probe ourselves as well, observing what we need to repent of. What comes out of our mouth and heart? 

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34) 

“The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

He loves us in spite of our weakness and sin. He is willing to help us be more than conquerors! 

Tuesday, February 08, 2022

One Life to Live

“My soul yearns and pines ​for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh ​cry out for the living God.” Psalm 84:3

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 07, 2022

All My Sorrows

Then Solomon said, “The Lord intends to dwell in the dark cloud…” 1 Kings 8:12

A dark cloud. Why would the Lord choose a dark cloud to dwell in? 

Today there are innumerable magnificent Cathedrals like the ones in Florence, Milan, Cologne, Santiago de Compostela, Reims, Paris and of course Rome. Just entering one of these sacred spaces inspire us to awe and wonder of the God who gave the inspiration and skill to man to create these masterpieces. God did say in Genesis that He made man in His image. I believe He found so much joy and satisfaction in forming the lofty mountains, the fantabulous creatures in the sea and air, the meandering rivers, and the changing seasons, that He wanted to share this delight in designing and building with man. 

Anyone who paints, draws, dances, plays an instrument, designs houses, cooks, etc., has felt this satisfaction and camaraderie with our Creator. God our Father was so generous to give us this gift of imagining and bringing into being something that didn’t exist. It’s not magic, but can feel like magic in a way. We can know and love God  because He has revealed Himself in the beauty of nature, and in the gifts He has bestowed on us. Our hearts lift up high when we hear the symphonies of Handel, Mozart, Tsaikovsky or Strauss. Or when we see statues and paintings of the masters. So yes, God reveals Himself to us in the beauty of creation and the created things by human hands. 

But at the same time, we cannot know Him fully. Thus the “dark cloud” He chooses to dwell in. As St. Paul says, “at present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known” (1 Cor 13:12). When we ask questions like, “Why am I undergoing this hardship?” or “Why is there evil in this world?”, sometimes God does not choose to answer us, and keeps us in the dark. We just need to trust Him, that He loves us so much, that not a single tear, nor any level of pain is wasted. In Psalm 56:8, there is this reassurance: “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” 

God knows. God cares. One day we will know as well the whys. Or perhaps it will not matter at all, because by then, we will be with the One who loved us first, loves us always and best. 

Sunday, February 06, 2022

Put Out Into the Deep

“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at Your command I will lower the nets.” Luke 5:4-5

I watched this scene in the series, “The Chosen”, when Simon had to call others to help him with the abundance of fish they caught in their nets. Imagine, after a frustrating night of not being able to catch anything! I am sure fishermen are familiar with this. How tired they must be after a whole evening of trying to catch fish and not a single fish to show for it! They must have been frustrated and discouraged! 

After two years of this pandemic, aren’t we in the same boat? The constant state of flux is frustrating for families, businesses, schools, entire countries, cities and towns. What have we to show after this whole length of time waiting for the virus to lose its effect on our lives? God must have big plans to have allowed such a cataclysmic situation that affects the whole world. What would He have us do???

I think we should invite Him into our boat, so we can hear Him say, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Sometimes, God allows us to feel helpless and discouraged so there is a space in our hearts for Him to come in. When we are full of ourselves, our successes, our accomplishments, we do not take the time to dwell on the more important things in life, our relationship with God and our fellowmen. We have to realize our lives are in God’s hands, and He is here for us in good times and bad. God is not after our success but our willingness to work with Him. 

Saturday, February 05, 2022

Give Me an Understanding Heart

“I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong. For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?” ​1 Kings 3:7-9

When Solomon was young, God asked him to ask for anything he wanted, and out of all the things he could choose, Solomon asked for wisdom. Our choices make us, make our future, make our families, make our character. In this world, there is no lack of examples of men who have chosen the gold and the power of this world instead of the treasures of heaven. That is what we can call short-sighted thinking. 

Solomon chose wisdom, and God gave him everything in addition to wisdom. In Wisdom 7, we can read, “I pleaded for the spirit of wisdom...Yet all good things together came to me in her company, and countless riches at her hands.” Wisdom is the key that opens every door, but oddly enough, wisdom is not something we pray for every day! 

We need to start listening for God’s guidance every day, so that if we listen to Him for little things, we will hear Him clearly for the big things. Will I change my job? Will I move my family to the US? Will I marry him? How can I solve my problem? What should I do? To receive God’s wisdom for the hard things, we need to go to him every day when we do not have a decision to make, a hard choice, a dilemma, a crisis. We need to train ourselves to listen to His still, small voice. I think hearing from God is the most important thing in our life!