Saturday, December 31, 2022

Light in the Darkness

"The light shines in the darkness, a darkness that did not overcome it." John 1:8

In the liturgical year of the Catholic church, the Christmas season will continue until January 8, the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus. 

We celebrate the light, Jesus, that shines in the darkness that engulfs this world. We cannot deny the darkness. 2022 has been a tough year, an extremely challenging one for many of us all around the world. We have been to some dark places, and for some of us, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. It can be easy to give up, to lose hope, but the thing is, sometimes God does bring us to dark places because that is where growth occurs.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit." John 12:24

If we leave seeds in the packet, it will remain seeds. But if we plant it in soil, it will grow. God is our gardener and we are His garden, it says in 1 Corinthians 3:9. Our gifts, talents, dreams and goals are just like seeds. Sometimes, we can only see the growth and blooming after it is planted in a time of darkness, of frustration, and even failure. Our resourcefulness, ingenuity, creativity, comes forth in new life.

Yes, if we stay in faith, trusting God, refusing to get bitter or pessimistic, God can bring new life out of darkness. Even where Jesus was born two thousand years ago, in Bethlehem, they are still deeply divided. There are grumblings of war between Israel and Jordan. In many places, there is still no room for Jesus to dwell. But just as He brought new life from Mary's dark womb on the first Christmas morning, and new life from Calvary's tomb, He can bring life and healing and restoration to every heart who welcomes Him. 

So if we are seeing some darkness now, the message of Christmas is "the light shines in the darkness". It is not time to despair or feel defeated, but time to rejoice! New life is coming! Let us receive Him with joy! 

Friday, December 30, 2022

Mission Possible

“Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you." Matthew 2:13

When the magi, the wise men, departed, an angel appeared to Joseph again in a dream, to give him instructions. He was told to leave and go to Egypt, to stay there and await further instructions. I'm thinking the original Mission: Impossible and Jim Phelps listening to a recording that would self destruct. In a way, Joseph is like Jim Phelps. They were both men of action, men of service and men of unwavering loyalty. They were given instructions by someone they trusted and they followed without question. 

We too have a mission given by God.  It may not be as impossible as Joseph and Mary's was, not as mind boggling, nor world changing, but it is a mission uniquely ours. Our mission, "should we decide to accept it" is fit for our talents and resources, and the milieu we find ourselves in. We were, just as Queen Esther was, "made for such a time as this" (Esther 4:14). 

Lord, may I be excited about what You want me to do, where I am with what I have. Like the boy with his meager hoard of loaves and fishes, I place what I have in Your hands, and know You can multiply it. Help me to trust You, and do my mission excellently!

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Blessing Upon Blessing

“You have fulfilled Your Word...” Luke 2:29

Simeon, in the 2nd chapter of Luke, awaited the promised Messiah and found Him in the temple one day when Jesus and Mary brought the child Jesus to present Him to the Lord. “You have fulfilled Your Word!” Simeon exulted, “You may let Your servant go in peace!” 

Can we say to God today, a few days before the closing of the year, “You have fulfilled Your promises to me. You may let me go in peace”? In the first place, do we know what God’s promises are? We can take Abraham as our example as he has been called our father in the faith. “All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3).

Do we know why God chose Abraham out of all the people in the world at that time? There are so many names listed in Genesis 11. What if God spoke to some others but they did not believe and obey? After all, it would have been a big sacrifice for anyone to leave their hometown.  Archaeological excavations in 1922 showed that in Ur, the house of a middle-class family would have 10-20 rooms, with the entire lower floor reserved for the servants. When God said, “Go away from your own country to a place I will show you,” Abraham obeyed. He is the ideal of everyone who overcomes the fear of the unknown, who wishes to go forward putting his trust in God. But Abraham did not leave empty handed. God promised him blessing upon blessing. 

As we leave 2022, we can say we are entering a whole new world. We have no idea what this new year will hold for us. But as always, we can depend on God and His many promises to us. Like Simeon and Abraham, God journeys with us. Let us hold Him to His promises. If we believe and obey Him, there is blessing upon blessing in store for us!

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

A King Became a Baby

God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

Today, we commemorate the Feast of the Holy Innocents. 

Herod the Great, King of Judea, was called great because he built cities, great palaces, temples, stadiums and fortresses. But he was infamous because he had 3 of his sons killed for treason, and put to death his favorite of his 10 wives, one of his mothers-in-law, a high priest, several uncles and a few cousins. In the 2nd chapter of Matthew, and in the writings of Macrobius, we learn that he ordered innocent little boys 2 years old and younger, taken from their mothers and massacred in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas. He liked to construct buildings but he destroyed people and lives. What malevolent darkness is there in man that he gives more worth to impermanent things than to an unborn baby, a suspected drug addict, or an old and chronically sick person? 

This Christmas season, after all the hectic gift buying and partying, let us sit down and ponder the miracle of God’s more than wonderful love for us. How priceless each one of us is, that He came down as a defenceless baby, to save us from darkness and sin. It does not matter to God if we are Daniel Craig who took home $100 million, or Manny Pangilinan who paid P31.6 million in taxes, or a jeepney driver who can’t even make boundary. 

Each one of us is precious, the “apple of His eye”, and He will do everything to bring us home with Him. There is no speck of darkness in God, and if we are suffering now, in great difficulty, we need only to bask in His light, to see ourselves as He sees us, to see our situation as He sees it. Hope springs eternal in His presence. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Insider Information

“…what we have seen and heard ​we proclaim now to you, ​so that you too may have fellowship with us…” 1 John:3

Everybody gets excited about insider information, be it about stocks, or someone getting engaged, or having a baby! That's why there are TV shows, magazines, websites devoted to inside information. Only a few people knew about the empty tomb in today’s Gospel story but it is written about in great detail in the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, so we get to know about this amazing occurrence as well. 

Can you imagine what Mary Magdalene and the disciples must have been experiencing when confronted by the fact that Jesus’ body had disappeared into thin air? They were fearful, confused, but perhaps a bit of hope was stirring like a flame in their hearts. Then an angel in bright clothes explained to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ (Luke 1:5-7) Can God be any clearer than that? 

The insider information the disciples received which we can now share with others is what Jesus foretold was true, and we can stand on God’s promises in the Old and New Testaments. He is alive and present in our daily lives. Come let us adore Him! 

Monday, December 26, 2022


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

Yesterday we celebrated the Immanuel, God with us, the baby born in a manger to a virgin, among animals, because there was no room for Him anywhere. Today in the Catholic Church's readings, the beautiful Christmas story is followed by St. Luke's account of Saint Stephen, the church's first martyr, brutally dragged and stoned to death. Why the contrast? Perhaps because most of the world embraces the palatable, pleasant, engaging Christmas story of a mother and child. After all who doesn't love a story with myriads of angels singing, shepherds, cute sheep, and magnificent magi bearing wondrous gifts? Everyone has adopted the holiday, giving gifts, wishing everyone goodwill, baking cookies, drinking, and eating. Sometimes even the Christ Child is forgotten and forlorn amidst all the tinsel and glitter! 

How much more has the world forgotten that part and parcel of the beautiful Christmas story is the un-beautiful crucifixion? That the same baby born to an innocent virgin would be, after 33 years, beaten and bruised, his face unrecognizably swollen and bloodied,  his back lacerated by whips with bone fragments! Jesus told His disciples that they too would be brought to trial, and flogged. They too would be called to witness on His account (Matthew 10). We may never be flogged, beaten, or stoned to death, but we should at least witness on His account! If we are brought to trial for being a Christian, will our words and actions find us guilty just as Saint Stephen was found guilty? 

Sunday, December 25, 2022


“Brothers and sisters: In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, He has spoken to us through the Son, whom He made heir of all things and through whom He created the universe, ​who is the refulgence of His glory, ​​the very imprint of His being, ​and who sustains all things by His mighty word.” Hebrews 1:1-6

Sometimes it feels to me as if God wanders about our world like an itinerant beggar. After all, He said in Matthew 25:40, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” And there are many many people around the world today who are hungry, abused, and lost. 

In more and more places, God is unwanted, ignored, even reviled. It used to be that prayer was welcomed in schools and offices. Now in some parts of the world, we will be labeled politically incorrect if we openly practice it. The ultimate basis for Christian ethics is the moral character of God. Without the Word of God as a foundation, we flounder. We lose our anchor as a nation, as a community, as a thinking person. 

On this day when we celebrate the birth of our Savior, let us find a place for Him and His Word in our hearts. It is said that each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus. Let us empty our hearts and minds of all those ideas that are not of God and find space for His glorious light. He wants to show us not only that we are loved, but that our lives have meaning and purpose. And He also wants us to reach out to the least of our brothers and sisters, to reveal to them their lives matter to Him and to us. 

Saturday, December 24, 2022


“All this is the work of kindness of our God; He, the Dayspring, shall visit us in His mercy to shine on those who sit in darkness... to guide our feet into the way of peace." 

Luke 1:78-79

Why is Jesus called the Dayspring? And what is the Dayspring? Dayspring is translated from "shachar" which means dawn, morning light, aurora, the rising of the sun. Jesus is appropriately called the Dayspring because He is the Word. 

He brought the light of the Gospel into the world.

That's why we sing, "O come Thou Dayspring, come and cheer, Our spirits by Thine Advent here, Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, And death's dark shadows put to flight." 

Are we like Jesus, a disperser of gloom and darkness? Or do we spread pessimism, hopelessness and despair? Everywhere we go there are disheartened, angry people. 

There are people who ache for hope. We need to say to them, "Take courage! Nothing is impossible with God!" That is the message of Advent. That with Jesus, there is always a new day dawning, a brand new beginning, a fresh start. We should take hold of that and help others who need to believe it as well. 

Someone once said that the ones with the most hope shall be the most influential. With Jesus, we can shine on those who sit in darkness, and guide people into the way of peaceful hearts and minds. 

Friday, December 23, 2022

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

“I wonder what this child will turn out to be?" Luke 1:66

John the Baptist was born amidst amazing circumstances. His parents Zechariah and Elizabeth were very old, and they had no children because Elizabeth was barren.  One day, Zechariah, a Jewish priest was on duty inside the sanctuary in the Temple, burning incense.  An angel appeared, and Zechariah was overwhelmed with fear. Who wouldn't be? But the angel told him not to be afraid. "God has heard your prayer, and your wife, Elizabeth will bear you a son!"  Angel Gabriel then proceeded to list the awesome qualities of his son, and instructed him to name him John. "He will be great in the sight of God."

"How can this be?" Zechariah asked incredulously, "We are both so old!"  The angel reprimanded him saying, "God was the one who instructed me to tell you this.  Since you did not believe, you won't be able to speak until the child is born."  True enough, Elizabeth became pregnant, and she gave birth to a baby boy. When Zechariah wrote that the baby was to be named John, he instantly began to speak. Everyone was so amazed and the news of what happened spread throughout the Judean hills.  

When we were born, God knew us too. No angel came to announce our arrival, but He formed us just as "fearfully and wonderfully" as He formed John the Baptist. We too have a purpose in our life.  We were not just dumped on earth without rhyme or reason.  When we were born, I do believe all the angels and saints rejoiced in heaven.  If an angel came to deliver the news, the angel would have listed our awesome qualities too!  

In Philemon 1:6, Paul prays that Philemon would recognize and acknowledge all the good things he has in Christ.  WE have so many good qualities! We just have to recognize them and bring them out.  Each one of us can be just as important as John the Baptist, if we obey God, and follow Jesus.  "Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he," Jesus tells the crowd in Matthew 11:11. We may not aspire to be greater than John the Baptist, but I think it would be exciting to work with God who wants to bring out the best in us, and use us. That is how we will find meaning and purpose in our life!  

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Carrying Jesus into the World

My soul magnifies the Lord...” Luke 1:46

Before the pandemic, I enjoyed giving workshops in our Artisan Workshop. In a way it was like having a baby, and giving birth to it. I would pray about it, develop a workshop, plan it, prepare all the materials and tools, invite people to join, and wait, trusting in the Lord that it would be awesome. God would sometimes surprise me with participants who came all the way from Laguna, but then I would get the heebie jeebies wondering if they would think it was worth all their time and trouble of coming to Quezon City to join. 

But then God and His marvelous faithfulness became concrete for me, when I just enjoyed His gifts, His daughters and sometimes a son or two, and the moment. Yes, it was challenging for me and for all the participants, but how much sweeter is the fruit for having been born after some hardship! 

Mary was a very young girl when God visited her. She held the Creator of all good things in her womb for a whole nine months. She said “yes” to God and never imagined how much blessing it would bring not only her, but the whole world. In a small way, we too can carry Jesus into the world, when we use our gifts, when we say yes to God, when we are brave enough to try for bigger things. God is faithful! God looks with favor upon each of us and has many wonderful things in store! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

My Beloved

My lover speaks; he says to me, ​“Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one, ​and come!” Song of Songs 2:10

I share with you this beautiful passage from the devotional I read daily, ‘Pondering the Word- The Anawim Way’- “The language of lovers is full of sweetness and beauty. But when we are aware of the bitterness and ugliness of our sin condition, it seems that such language cannot really apply to us. How can the Lord call me His beloved, His beautiful one? He must be talking to someone else! The Lord sees our sin, of course, but he sees much more. He sees in us the beauty that He had in mind when He first created us, and He comes to restore us to that beauty. So He is indeed seeking us and speaking tenderly to us. He loves us much more than any earthly lover ever could.

We can more readily understand God’s love for us if we have parents, siblings, children, a spouse who loves us. We can know that as much as they love us, God loves us so much more. When I worry about my son, I take comfort in the reality that God loves him so so much more than even I am capable of, and of course God will do everything to bring about the best for him. We need only to trust Him. We can put our heart and well being in His safe keeping with full confidence He will give His life for us, because He already did. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Trust in God

“I am the maidservant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your Word." 

Luke 1:38

How could Mary, after receiving the most mind boggling, shocking news that her life was going to be turned upside down, be so calm and unruffled?

I've never experienced anything half as earth shaking, and yet many times I have been anxious and filled with questions.

JC Ryle writes, “Faith never rests so calmly and peacefully as when it lays its head on the pillow of God's omnipotence."

We may be anxious sometimes about the way we are bringing up our children, the uncertain situation in our country, a loved one’s alarming health condition, etc. After all, there are so many factors beyond our control. We may be intentional and purposeful, and do the very best we can, and still something goes wrong!

Like Mary, we need to really trust in God. That after we pray and study His Word and obey what He says in it, the very best we can do is leave it to Him. After all He promised that He would finish the work He has started in each and every one of us! (Philippians 1:6)

Monday, December 19, 2022

Praise God!

“But now you will be speechless...” Luke 1:20

When Zechariah was told by an angel in the first chapter of Luke that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a son, Zechariah did not believe because they were both sooo old. The angel said, "Now you will be mute until the promise will be fulfilled." When what the angel foretold took place, Zechariah's tongue was loosened and he started praising God.

With just 6 more days till Christmas, we need to be like Zechariah and spend some quiet time pondering what God has done and is doing for us. We should not take for granted God’s handiwork in our life. Too often, we do just that! God is making sure I am full of thankfulness this Advent and Christmas season! 

After my heart surgery, every little progress I made was a point of rejoicing. The easiest things to do before, bending down to pick up something, climbing the stairs, shampooing my hair, made my oxygen level go low. So all the things I can do now which I did not give any thought to, they are God’s gifts. 

I remember when I was very sick with Pemphigus Vulgaris, and my mouth was filled with sores. I got so thin because I could not eat. I felt so sad I could not eat, talk or sing. Today, I am very grateful that God healed me of that auto immune condition, and I can eat and talk and sing. No more mouth sores! What freedom! Sometimes you have to lose things before you learn to appreciate them. But let us not wait to lose things, abilities, our good health, and especially people, before we thank the generous Lord for them! 

If we spend some time today, counting our blessings too many to count, like Zechariah, we too will praise God! By the time Christmas comes around, we will have the true joy that God promises which does not depend upon shiny gifts under the tree! 

Sunday, December 18, 2022

God With Us

“His name shall be called ‘Emmanuel’ (which means, God with us)” Matthew 1:23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Part of His Story

“...his mother was Rahab.” Matthew 1:5

We can see from the genealogy of Jesus in the first chapter of Matthew that God is very patient, and He has intricately woven strands of different kinds of people into His story. The genealogy began with Abraham, the first to believe in God’s promises and ends with Mary, who saw God’s promise fulfilled. 

The long list includes only five women which is quite unusual in a Jewish genealogy. One of them is Rahab, found in the 2nd book of Joshua. She was a prostitute who protected the two men Joshua secretly sent from the Israelite camp to spy out the land they were going to invade. Even if she was part of an idolatrous people, the Amorites, God opened her eyes to see His plan. "I know the Lord has given you this land," she told the two spies. "The Lord Your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below." (Joshua 2:9-11) Rahab, the prostitute, married Salmon, one of the spies, and became the mother of Boaz, who married Ruth, another woman who made it into the genealogy of Jesus. Ruth also had some conviction that she should follow Naomi, her mother-in-law, and be part of Naomi's people. 

In Matthew 7:7, Jesus tells the crowd, "Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened." In the case of Rahab, she had obviously heard about God from the travelers she entertained in her house which was against the town wall. She knew He made a dry path through the Red Sea so the Jews could pass, how He helped the Jews conquer peoples and kings. As with Ruth, she knew about God through her marriage to Naomi's son. Both Rahab and Ruth decided they wanted to be part of the story God was weaving. 

We can see that even if we come from a dung heap like Rahab the harlot, or if we're an ordinary man or woman with every day challenges, we can decide to be part of His story. We can wait for God’s plan to unfold in our lives, and be a part of His pilgrim people who longs to one day see His face.

Friday, December 16, 2022

A Sacrifice of Praise

“O God, let all the nations praise you!” Psalm 67:3

“The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil”

Thus begins probably the most well known of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poems. It was written in 1877 and published posthumously. He converted to Roman Catholicism and became estranged from his devout Anglican family. In 1877, he was ordained a Jesuit priest. His poems are the result of prayer and meditation using the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius de Loyola. His highly original poems expressed his sense of God’s mystery, splendor and mercy. Hopkins desired to glorify God with his pen, and he believed man was created to praise God. 

Truly we are created to praise God. We are encouraged in the Bible to offer a sacrifice of praise. How wonderful if we use our many gifts to glorify God like Gerard Manley Hopkins did. We can sing songs, make art, cook, dance, play the guitar, study well, and do excellent work all for the glory of God! May we please You, Father, as we use the gifts You have so lovingly bestowed on us, to give You praise and honor You! 

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Tomorrow Will Bring Flowers

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths: All flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Luke 3:4,6

John was born amidst amazement and wonder for Elizabeth was so old. His father Zechariah proclaimed, “And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord.” (Luke 1:76)

We too are “prophets” of God. We are called to make straight His path, to prepare for His 2nd coming. Our birth was not foretold, but each and every day, we are given a chance to bring God’s Word to life in someone’s heart. 

Sometimes we can be so pessimistic because of all the bad news but it is so much better to be the person who foretells, “Tomorrow will bring flowers!” And if someone asks why, we can answer, “Because I am planting seeds today!” If we want peace, we should sow peace. If we want more love, then we must spread love and brighten our little corner of the world. 

We do not need to foretell future events to be a “prophet” today. We need only to tell the truth, and what better truth is there to proclaim than the good news? If we plant seeds today, they will bring forth good fruit. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

St. John of the Cross

“I am the Lord, there is no other; I form the light, and create the darkness…” Isaiah 45:6-7

I love reading about the saints, ordinary men and women who were able to love and obey God in an extraordinary way. It gives me hope that it is indeed possible to follow Jesus on the narrow road. Every day is a new opportunity to try harder, to make better decisions, to be more disciplined, to grow closer to God. If God does not give up hope on us, why should we give up hope on ourselves? 

Today is the Feast Day of Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church. He came from a very poor family, his father died when he was but three years old, his older brother died of malnutrition, and as a child, St. John was put in a boarding school for poor orphans. In spite of such an unpromising beginning, God had great plans for the boy, and he had religious leanings even when he was young. He attended a Jesuit school, and in 1563 he joined the Carmelite Order. He attended the university in Salamanca, and studied theology and philosophy. 

At a time when the Church forbade the translation of the Bible from Latin, he took it upon himself to translate the Song of Songs into Spanish, his native tongue. That was the kind of man he was. When he was 25 years old, he met St.Teresa of Avila. Both of them worked to reform the Carmelite order which had become lax and departed from the original, strict rule and regimen. This resulted in his trial for disobedience, and his subsequent imprisonment in a dark narrow cell for nine months. They wanted to kill his spirit, instead his spirit flamed into new life in the dark of imprisonment. During this time he had many beautiful encounters with God which he wrote about in poetry on scraps smuggled in by the friar tasked to guard him. 

He wrote through the years, “Silence is God’s first language...In the inner stillness where meditation leads, the Spirit secretly anoints the soul and heals our deepest wounds.... The endurance of darkness is the preparation for great light...Contemplation is nothing else but a secret, peaceful, and loving infusion of God, which if admitted, will set the soul on fire with the Spirit of love....In the dark night of the soul, bright flows the river of God....In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.”

In the dark cell, when St. John was ‘alone’, he was not really alone. God was with him, like a flame in the silence. When we feel most alone and in despair, we must learn to seek God for He is surely there.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

May Our Eyes See as You See

“Woe to the city, rebellious and polluted, ​to the tyrannical city!” Zephaniah 3:1

Today is the Feast Day of St. Lucy. She is the Patron Saint of the blind and of eye problems. She wanted to remain a virgin and refused to be married. In one legend, when a suitor 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. Pictures of Saint Lucy often depict her eyes on a plate. 

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. The guards came to execute the sentence, and they found her body so heavy, they could not carry her even if they pulled her with a team of oxen!!! 

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 enjoy eternal life with You. May our eyes see as You see, with compassion, and love, for everyone we meet. 

Monday, December 12, 2022

Who is Like Thee?

“See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the Lord.” Zechariah 2:10

Who is like our God? He came down as a human being to save us because He loves us! He is not lofty, and He certainly does not look down on us from His high throne in the heavens. 

He speaks to us, and desires to have a relationship with us. He did everything so that we would get to know Him. He gave us the Bible so we could read His story, His love affair with us, how He calls us to be His people. He provided His Holy Spirit so we could get to really know Him, and talk to Him. 

Isaiah 41:22-23, we can read, “Present your case," says the LORD. "Set forth your arguments," says Jacob's King.”Bring in [your idols] to tell us what is going to happen. Tell us what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome. Or declare to us the things to come,tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods.” Is there any other god who foretold the future? There are so many prophecies in the Old Testament. 

There are at least 333 prophecies concerning Christ. Two computer scientists in the University of Oregon ran this problem through the computer. The odds against one man fulfilling these 333 prophecies were 67 to the 10th degree, a figure so astronomical that it approached infinity. The odds of one man fulfilling only 8 of those prophecies is only 1 in 10 to the 17th power.  That’s 1 in 100, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000!
More fascinating resources on these odds:

Sunday, December 11, 2022

The Desert will Bloom

“The desert and the parched land will exult; ​the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, ​and rejoice with joyful song.” 
Isaiah 35:1-2

How do we make the desert bloom with flowers and fruit? Is it even possible? At the Ramat Negev Agro-Research Center in Israel, we see that it is. Acacia trees, cherry tomatoes, pumpkins, mushrooms, Asian greens, potatoes, strawberries, sweet peppers, exotic mushrooms, many more vegetables, fruits and super foods bloom in arid desert farms. People come from all over the world to learn how to grow food in the desert and how to fight desertification victoriously. 

What do they do exactly? Scientists and other experts found that if you irrigate plants with brackish water, it is important to direct the water to the roots. The somewhat salty water should never touch the leaves or the salt in the water will harm the leaves. This is somewhat contrary to some other studies, but the proof is in what Israel’s drip-irrigation system has accomplished. 

Taking from this lesson, I think we should realize that if we are in a desert circumstance, we will only bloom if we drink deeply of the water God provides. The Bible speaks of the water of life that quenches our spiritual thirst. If we only have a superficial sprinkling that does not reach the depths of our souls and spirit, it will not be of any use to us. It may even harm us. 

In John 7: 37-39 Jesus said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” ' 

Father, may I be refreshed by Your Spirit, may I read Your Word every day, and be nourished by You.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

You are My Friend

“Blessed is he who shall have seen you and who falls asleep in your friendship.” 

Sirach 48:11

Although these words were written of the prophet Elijah, we can say the same for all the formidable prophets and great patriarchs in the Bible, like Moses. We have to realize that all of them had to do the normal chores and work you and I do. While Moses was doing something ordinary, tending the flock of his father-in-law, a task he did every day, something extraordinary caught his attention. There was a bush engulfed in flames but it was not consumed. When he went closer, God spoke to him. "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob." 

God introduced Himself to Moses. He wants to do the same for each of us, for all of us. In the midst of our ordinary, every day chores, God is there. He may not show Himself in a burning bush, but He is there in the kindness of strangers, the bonds of love we have with our family, the Eucharist, the camaraderie and fellowship with friends, the times we use the gifts and talents He gave us, in every ordinary day. 

Lord, just as You called Moses and had a purpose for Him, so You call us. May we know what You want us to do with the gifts and talents, all the resources You blessed us with. One day, may we hear You say as You said to Moses, "You have found favor with Me, and you are My friend." (Exodus 33:17)

Friday, December 09, 2022


Today is the feast day of St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin. This is his story and the story of how people who are enslaved can find freedom in God’s plan for their lives. 

In the 1400s, Mexico was under Aztec oppression. In every town, there was a temple pyramid, where Aztec priests would offer human sacrifices to their god Huitzilopochtli. This god was the "Lover of Hearts and Drinker of Blood," and the priests would cut out the beating hearts of victims, usually adult men but very often children. Over 50,000 human beings were sacrificed each year. Then in 1523, Franciscan missionaries came and evangelized the Indian people. 

On December 9, 1531, Mary, the mother of Jesus, appeared to a 57-year old simple peasant man, an Aztec convert, who was on his way to mass. Juan Diego was a member of the Chichimeca people, and he was a farmer and weaver of mats. Mary asked this simple man to request Bishop Zumarraga that a shrine be built in her honor on the site where she appeared. When Juan presented this request to the Bishop, the Bishop naturally asked for a sign. After several encounters with Mary, Juan brought the Bishop what he asked for. When Juan opened his tilma, his peasant cloak, beautiful Castillan roses, foreign to Mexico, fell out, but more than that, the Bishop saw an extraordinary image of Our Lady on the tilma. The Bishop wept at the sight. That tilma still survives today and thousands go to see it in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

We may be skeptical about apparitions and images appearing on tilmas or anywhere else. However, because Mary spoke to Juan Diego in his native language, and because she was wearing the Aztec dress for pregnant women in the image, this provoked millions of conversions to the Catholic faith in just under seven years. 

Today, we may not have human sacrifices to gods, but according to WHO, there are an estimated 40-50 million abortions in the world every year! This amounts to 125,000 babies murdered every day. 

There is so much evil in the world. But the vision in the Book of Revelation chapter 12 gives us hope. Because of Mary’s yes, because she gave birth to Jesus, and because Jesus gave His life for us on the cross, “Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of God and the authority of His anointed.” (Rev. 12:10) God’s magnificent plan is always the best. 

We need only to trust in Him.

Thursday, December 08, 2022

Whole Hearted Yes!

“...May it be done unto me according to your word.” Luke 1:38

Today we read about the Anunciation of the blessed Virgin Mary, when the Archangel Gabriel announced to Mary, “You will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great, and He will be called Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of David His father...and His Kingdom will have no end.” 

Mary was a very young girl when Gabriel appeared to her. She must have been trembling and yes, greatly troubled, but the angel said, “Do not fear for you have found favor with God.” Because of this young maiden’s “Yes”, the world was turned upside down in a silent but deadly battle. 

We all like watching movies where we know the hero, against all odds, even if everything is stacked up against him, will emerge out of rubble, victorious. We know the ending because we know the director won’t kill off the character played by the leading man. In the world today it may appear that everything is stacked up against good, and evil is prevailing, but that is far from the truth. God is waiting in infinite patience for each one of us give our voluntary yes to Him like Mary did 2000 years ago. 

From my favorite daily meditation book, Anawim, I quote: “The Anunciation gives us a glimpse of how the power of God can enter the world when He receives a whole-hearted ‘yes’ from man.” This Advent season, may we look more deeply into our heart and find space for the Christ child to dwell and grow. Let us give God our whole-hearted ‘Yes’! 

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Come to Me

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Life can be burdensome. We carry a load on our back and it can break us or make us stronger. Sometimes we cannot carry it alone or it will make us bitter, desperate, rebellious and even hardened to the point of brittleness. Think of those who survived the Holocaust, who went through wars, and great famines, and now this pandemic and economic repercussions. Where are we to go to look for the bright light we long for? 

When I think of burdens I remember Shrek the sheep. He became famous in 2004 for his fleece which was abnormally heavy! Merinos are normally shorn every year but Shrek was an expert in hiding in caves and avoided being caught for six long years! He belonged to the Bendigo sheep station near Tarras, New Zealand, and when he was finally found, his shearing was broadcast on national television. An average merino would just carry 4.5 kg, with an exceptional weight of up to 15 kg. Shrek’s fleece weighed 27 kg, enough for 20 large men’s suits! What a heavy burden, simply because Shrek kept hiding from his shepherd for six long years! He was a runaway rebel like many of us, preferring to carry our burdens by ourselves. 

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” Jesus invites us. If we surrender, stop hiding, Jesus promises He will give us rest. All we need to do is to learn from Him, to read and understand and take His words to heart. The yoke we take is also carried by Him. He came to redeem us. He gave His life so we can have fullness of life! 

Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Reckless Love

Jesus said to his disciples: “What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?” Matthew 18:12 

To be honest, I would not leave the ninety-nine in the hills to go in search of one stray sheep that got himself into trouble! What if a wolf comes and attacks the ninety-nine? What if a thief comes while I am out searching for that stupid sheep?! But then I am not Jesus making a very important point in this parable. The ninety-nine are the faithful sheep, the ones who believe and are walking and talking their faith. The wayward sheep is the one who is following the ways of the world, living by his own rules. Jesus  is describing the kind of love he has for those who go astray. He will not give up on them. In Ezekiel 34:16, God says He will search for the lost and bring back the strays. 

The chorus of the song, “Reckless Love” sang by Cory Asbury, goes like this:

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

Oh, it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the 99

And I couldn't earn it

I don't deserve it, still You give yourself away

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

Yes, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God impels Him to look for that lost sheep! 

Monday, December 05, 2022

God’s People

“Some men came along carrying a paralytic on a mat." Luke 5:18

This story of the paralytic and his 4 friends show just how important being part of a community of believers is. There were too many people surrounding Jesus inside a particular house in Capernaum, so the four men carrying the paralytic broke through the tiles of the roof. They let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying to bring the sick man to Jesus’ attention. 

When I was in the hospital, it was a big comfort to me that so many were praying for me. My family, friends and my community brought me to the attention of Jesus. One of my doctors, after the open heart surgery, mentioned, “Millions are praying for you.” I was so surprised because I did not know him, but I assumed he knew someone from my community. 

At times, we are the paralytic being brought to Jesus by our friends, but most of the time, we can be one of the friends carrying the mat. There are so many in need of prayer. Do we take the time to stop and pray? How many people have we carried through the streets, up to the roof, and through broken tiles? Has our faith and love brought someone to the notice of Jesus, enough for Him to say, "I see your faith. I will heal your friend!" 

Sometimes we give up because of the "crowds", the busyness, the hopelessness. But if we want to see "incredible things", we should persevere and push through the crowds, and whatever obstacles are put in our way! And we should remember, that even if we put down the mat, we can always take it up again, and continue the journey. That is what it means to be a part of God’s people.