Friday, June 30, 2023

Something Larger than Ourselves

“…you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages. This is my covenant with you…” 

Genesis 17:9-10

Abraham was 99 years old when God reminded him of their covenant. After Abraham, men through the ages have obeyed God and honored him. 

I think of the great cathedrals in Europe. These were made primarily to give glory to God. Of course there were foolish men who fed their vanity by building these masterpieces of stone but the men and women who worked on these medieval churches were mostly poor, dirt poor. They had no power tools, or big cranes and machines. There were no modern engineering computations. It was often a community effort, with whole towns and villages contributing labor, an assembly line of craftsmen working with stone, wood and iron. 

These men and women who were involved in the construction of these Gothic soaring spires, and stained glass windows, and the patrons who supplied the money needed, were all part of building something larger than oneself. Most of the time, they did not even see the cathedral finished. 

Today, we in the Church are also part of something larger than ourselves. We are part of a long line of believers keeping our covenant with God, on a pilgrim journey, along with other pilgrims in this magnificent plan of God for mankind. We may not be there at the end, when the last trumpet blares, but day to day, we can do something to build the Church, the people of God, as we call our brethren on, encourage and inspire, and fulfill God’s purpose for us here on earth. 

Thursday, June 29, 2023

The Good Fight

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7

When I was young, my whole family joined the Milo Marathon training. It was fun because there were a lot of people joining in. I found it funny because during the first and subsequent sessions we walked very sloooowly, that I got so bored. I would bring a book with me to read while walking. That was how serious I was about the training. My sister Peggy was more earnest and followed the instructions of the trainer. 

Eventually she finished the course by completing the whole marathon while I watched from the sidelines. I think it was because I was not seeing the goal. I was just there to be with the family and have fun. When the going got tough, I opted out. 

As Christians, we have to set our eyes on the prize- eternal life! If we don't, we can lose our way. We can just be watching from the sidelines while others are running the race seriously. Lord, may I set my eyes on You, and seriously follow You! Like Paul, may I say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Good Fruit

“…every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit…So by their fruits you will know them.” Matthew 7:17-20

Today, June 28, we celebrate the Feast Day of St. Irenaeus, Bishop and martyr. I did not know much about him before, when I was not so interested in apologetics and the defense of Christianity. But this Saint is one of the pillars of our faith, a Church father, and was instrumental in safeguarding the early Church against heresies by his writings. Today, many are converting to Catholicism because of the many gems of truth left by St. Irenaeus, St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, etc. who describe for us what the early Church of Christ believed, and how they worshipped. 

After Pentecost, the formerly timid Apostles bravely went forth to preach the gospel and founded churches in numerous cities. St. John the Apostle went to Ephesus in what is Turkey today. There St. Polycarp learned all about Jesus from him, and after St. Polycarp was ordained a Bishop, he governed the Church in Smyrna (Izmir, Turkey today) for 65 years. There, Irenaeus became St. Polycarp’s disciple and became a priest. So all that St. John handed down to Polycarp was passed on to Irenaeus. We can see how our faith is apostolic handed down from Jesus to the Apostles to the Bishops, as God planned. 

Today we see the good fruit in our Church when it stands firm in the same teachings that hold to the sanctity of life and marriage. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

God’s Very Best

So Abram said to Lot: “…If you prefer the left, I will go to the right; if you prefer the right, I will go to the left.” Lot looked about and saw how well watered the whole Jordan Plain was as far as Zoar, like the Lord’s own garden, or like Egypt. Lot, therefore, chose for himself the whole Jordan Plain and set out eastward. Genesis 13:9-11

Abraham was a very rich man. Sometimes when we have a lot of possessions, we want to safeguard it, make sure it is secure. But Abraham was different from most wealthy men. He trusted in God, and he put his future in God’s hands. So when the time came to choose which part of the land he would take, he did not exert his right as one with authority over Lot to get a better portion. He actually let Lot choose, and Lot chose according to what he saw would make him more prosperous. He picked the whole Jordan plain which was well watered and fertile. Abraham moved to Canaan. 

Every day, we all make so many decisions. In business, there are decisions that impact the bottom line and some that are downright bad! In our personal life, we also make good and not so good choices. How can we be more like Abraham, and able to let go and let God? Jim Elliot, an American missionary who gave his life to evangelize the Huaorani people of Ecuador, left me two of my favorite quotations. One is “God gives His very best to those who leave the choice to Him.” The other one is “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Decision making is not simple, but if we choose God, put Him first, we cannot go wrong. 

Monday, June 26, 2023

An Inheritance Unlike Any Other

“Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.” Genesis 12:1

What an amazing man our father Abraham was! He uprooted himself from all that was familiar to obey a God who promised him: “I will make of you a great nation, ​and I will bless you; I will make your name great, ​so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you ​and curse those who curse you. All the communities of the earth ​shall find blessing in you.”

The story of Abraham is an adventure of faith. We can make the same journey, because God promises us many wonderful things too. We just need to find out more about it, much the same way as a person with an inheritance has to look through a will. Sometimes, before a bequest is given, there are requirements that have to be met. Some eccentric wills have required the beneficiary to visit the family home once a year, or to marry before a certain age, or to take care of a person, pet or property. 

We are heirs of a wonderful unique plan of God for each one of us. Our inheritance will not rot, perish, decay, or be destroyed by any natural calamity, or law of entropy. For what God has promised is heaven itself! It is unlike any other promise made by man, because it is the Creator of the Universe who made this promise of eternal life. It is so worth it to find out exactly what we have to do to inherit this awesome gift! 

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Worth More than Many Sparrows

“Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:30-31

There seems to be an epidemic of fear, anxiety, and insecurity in the world today. Perhaps there always was but it was magnified by the pandemic, made so many times worse by the social isolation. In the first year of the COVID-19 world wide contagion, a scientific paper released by the World Health Organization (WHO), stated that anxiety and depression increased by a whopping 25%! There were lots of young people affected by the quarantine measures. 

The Word of God says we need not be afraid, we need not be anxious, for we have a loving God who knows how many strands of hair are on our head, who knows our past, our present and even our future. He holds us in the palm of His loving hand. If we are aware of how precious we are in God’s eyes, we will be less fearful of the future. We can be confident that whatever happens , our God will always be there to take care of us. Our God loves us more than anyone on earth ever could. 

A friend of the family was recounting how much she loved her grandchild. Even if he didn’t do anything at all, she loved him so so much, her heart could burst with love of him. That is how much God loves us and more. We do not need to be so beautiful, or accomplished, or good. He already is crazy about us! We are the apple of His eye! (Zechariah 2:8) 

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

“Truly you have formed my inmost being; ​you knit me in my mother’s womb. I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made; ​wonderful are your works.” Psalm 139:13-14

When Joshua was in my tummy, I felt a mixture of awe, anxiety, and peace. I was 38 years old, and it was my first time to carry a child in my womb, so of course I wanted to take the best care of my baby. I prayed and prayed, and God knew I had a little excitement and fear, and He reassured me saying, “When you hold your child in your arms, you will know how much I love you.” 

When Joshua was born, I was not exactly prepared. Luigi and I thought we were just going for a check up. There were regular pains but not very painful, and when I reached my doctor’s clinic, the ladies waiting there said my tummy was too small, I couldn’t be in labor. My doctor arrived and after examining me, she sent me to the labor room. I delivered quickly, so fast there was no time for an aesthetic to be administered. 

When we see a little baby, don’t we think he or she is a masterpiece by our Creator? An extraordinary, precious, unique work of art, each one of them? How much more if we consider that we are all made of trillions and trillions of cells but we come from the division of just one itsy bitsy cell! And our brains! My little grandchild is not yet three but he is so talkative, he can tell stories, memorize the names of soooooo many dinosaurs, and can speak using correct tenses. His first word was “umbrella”, and we are constantly being surprised at how he can learn the meanings of words by context. 

I am always thankful that our skin is made of such a miraculous material because I always manage to get my hands dirty with paints, and inks, and markers. And yet, we can wash it with soap and water, and it becomes as good as new. And how about our eyes, and nose, our eyelashes that keep dust away from our eyes, our philtrum (the medical indentation on top of our lip) which helps in the movement of our mouth? 

There are so many parts of our bodies we take for granted, but God did not. He was intentional in our bodies’ design, and if we researched, I am sure we would find so many amazing details to thank God for. 

Thank You Father for You created us to be a masterpiece of Your creation, Your crowning glory! 

Friday, June 23, 2023

Treasures in Heaven

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” 

Matthew 6:19-21

One of the reasons people become staunch Christians is the witness of the saints and martyrs who willingly gave their lives in defense of the gospel. See what St. Paul suffered through: 

“…far more imprisonments, far worse beatings, and numerous brushes with death. Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings, through cold and exposure.” 2 Corinthians 11:23-27

Why would any sane person continue preaching Jesus’ new way if he did not decisively believe it? So many of Jesus’ followers, unknown and known, willingly gave their lives instead of denouncing Him. There’s St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, who was stoned WHILE the still unconverted Saul looked on in approval! Then there’s James, son of Zebedee, one of Christ’s first disciples who was executed by the sword on orders of Herod Agrippa. Simon Peter, one of the first leaders of the early Church and founder of the Church of Antioch and Rome, was crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero. And the list of martyrs goes on and on, Andrew, Thomas, Jude, Barnabas and Mark the Evangelist were all martyrs of the faith. 

They did not store up treasures here on earth, but accumulated treasures in heaven. We need not be martyrs to store up treasures in heaven. We just need our heart in the right place, with Jesus, for where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. 

Thursday, June 22, 2023

The Best Kind of Love

“Our Father who art in heaven..." Matthew 6:7-15

In the Old Testament God is called Father a mere 15 times. In the new Testament, in the 4 Gospels alone, He is called Father 170 times!

"Abba", the word used in the prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray, translates to "daddy" showing God wants, no, yearns for an intimate relationship with you and me. As a matter of interest, He says to the prophet Jeremiah, “I thought you would call me ‘Father.” (Jeremiah 3:19)

But verse 15 has a "caveat emptor" in case we think this is a free pass! We have to forgive others their sins, and not only their sins against us, but also what we think they should have done but didn't!

Every day little hurts can pile up.

Words that should or should not have been said. Actions. Gestures. Facial expressions. Gifts or no gifts. 

I remember when my mom said something that hurt me. She came to my house to ask my forgiveness. We talked and talked until we forgave each other. We are all sons and daughters of a loving Father who wants the best for us. And the best love is the love that forgives. That is the kind of love our Father has for us.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Implausible Love

“And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” 

Matthew 6:18

Do you ever think that God has a record book, and he puts down all our bad deeds and our good deeds? Sometimes I wish He had one, where everything is accounted for. But when I wish this, it’s usually for counting what corrupt politicians do in secret, and the ones who spread fake news, the ones who molest baby girls and kidnap them and make them sex slaves. 😭

But this verse in the 6th chapter of Matthew is about good deeds not bad. We should give alms, pray, and fast in secret, not show off. Then God will reward us. If we tell others about what we are doing, we have already been repaid, Jesus warns. Many have called praying privately, communing with God, “closet prayer”. Thomas Brooks said this was a “secret key to heaven”. Prayer is absolutely vital to a human being. We need to pray as much as we need to breathe! 

I love what St. Augustine wrote, “Prayer is the encounter of God's thirst with ours." Indeed God thirsts for us to be close to Him, hungers for our love, waits for our communication. We will never encounter a God like Him in other religions or in the atheistic mindset because He is implausible. How can we hold in our mind a God who is timeless but entered time, all powerful but allowed Himself to be weak and tortured by the very creatures He came to save? Implausible. 

This God can see everything hidden in our “tortuous hearts” as it says in Jeremiah 17:9. Our hearts are beyond remedy, because God in His love for us, gave us the free will to choose for Him or against Him! That same love inspired Francis Thompson to compare God to the hound of heaven, even though we flee from Him, “I am he whom Thou seekest!” 

St. Paul wrote the Romans, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) Thank You Father for Your implausible love! 

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

I Shall Have Everything

“…that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9

Hasn’t it puzzled you that Jesus the Christ chose to be born poor in a small stable, or even a cave as some have written. That he was laid in a feeding trough for animals? That he grew up in the nondescript town of Nazareth? This shows us that God does not put any value in appearances, riches or even power. Although He is the mightiest of the mighty and could easily have laid low His enemies, He chose to be meek as a lamb and allowed Himself to be humiliated and mangled. Yes, just like the lambs that were slaughtered as sacrifices in the Temple. 

I was curious to find out if there was any King who willingly gave up his throne not to escape his duties, not for love of a woman, but for love of Christ. My search brought me to the little know saint, Louis of Toulouse (1274-1297). He was a prince who renounced his right to succeed the throne to join the Franciscans. He claimed: "Jesus Christ is my kingdom. If He is all I have, I shall have everything." He also said, “Jesus Christ is all my riches; He alone is sufficient for me." True to his word, Louis lived very simply, and daily fed 25 poor people at his table. 

Dear Jesus, it is so hard to give up what we have. But help us to put You first over everything, so that You will be our treasure, our pearl of great price. 

Monday, June 19, 2023

Give Without Counting the Cost

“Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles." Matthew 5:41

The US military bestows the Medal of Honor to any member of the United States armed forces who distinguishes himself "conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States." One awardee was asked to defend an indefensible position, and he did so with no complaints. He died with his body draped over his machine gun.

We too are soldiers in a battlefield. We may not see the enemy clearly as they are not in uniform just as we are not in uniform. But we are given orders by our supreme commander. One of those commands is about serving one another. We should serve with our heart so that we can really go above and beyond the call of duty. Go the extra mile. Give without counting the cost. Our commander can be quite exacting, but He did give the best example. He gave His very life on the cross so that we could learn to love as He loves.

Although this is one of the most difficult prayers, Lord, I ask that You teach me to love and serve as You love and serve. Help me to know how and when to help. Even when it is painful. Amen.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Illuminate Your Part of the World

“Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” Matthew 10:8

The writer, Elizabeth Gilbert, wrote about being stuck in a bus in New York City during rush hour. Everyone was sort of in a bad mood. As the bus approached the intersection, the driver spoke on the intercom. “Folks," he said, "I know you have had a rough day and you are frustrated. I can’t do anything about the weather or traffic, but here is what I can do. As each one of you gets off the bus, I will reach out my hand to you. As you walk by, drop your troubles into the palm of my hand, okay? Don’t take your problems home to your families tonight, just leave them with me. My route goes right by the Hudson River, and when I drive by there later, I will open the window and throw your troubles in the water.” 

The mood changed. Smiles and laughter were exchanged. Passengers were suddenly talking to each other in amusement and delight. At the next stop, the driver put his palm up and the exiting commuters pretended to drop their burdens into it. Some smiled, some laughed, and some teared up. At the next stop he did it again, and the next. And then he dropped all of it in the Hudson River. 

It was a simple thing the driver did, but it required some courage on his part. Courage to acknowledge how hard life can be at times, and how we all need a friend to help us with our burdens. We are usually alone, carrying the fear, uncertainty, hopelessness, or misery. Don’t we all need someone to remind us that there is light, there is hope and grace, if only we can find it? What if we can be that person? 

Elizabeth Gilbert summed up her experience, “No matter who you are, or where you are, or how mundane or tough your situation may seem, I believe you can illuminate your world. In fact, I believe this is the only way the world will ever be illuminated, one bright act of grace at a time, all the way to the river."

Saturday, June 17, 2023

New Creation

“…whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Whoever we are, a drug addict, a murderer, a woman who had an abortion, a criminal fleeing from justice, we can pray “Show me Your ways, Lord, teach me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior.” (Psalm 25:4-5) We can depend on a loving God to move in our life. Verse 3 of the same Psalm reads: “No one who hopes in You will ever be put to shame.”

One of my favorite conversion stories that I never get tired of hearing or reading about is that of Brian Welch, better known as “Head”. He was the lead guitarist of the heavy metal band named KoRn that he formed with other guys in 1993. They became super successful with multi-platinum albums, several Grammys, and million dollar deals. He didn’t feel successful though. Instead he felt like the biggest loser because he was struggling with addictions to alcohol and Meth and Xanax. But what he was most afraid of was ruining the life of his perfect “Shirley Temple” daughter with the way he was screwing up his life. 

One day he found himself in church listening to a pastor in jeans. “Christ just wants to live inside of you. God is real. Speak with Him. All the bad stuff will fall away." It was exactly what Brian needed to hear. He got a Bible and started reading while he was high. He pleaded with God to help him, to free him from the pain, the addictions. "Please take these drugs from me!" He had been reading the Bible for a week, when he heard, "I love you." It was so real, it took over the high of the drugs. God convicted him of his sin and in 2 weeks, his addiction to drugs and alcohol was gone.

His band was just about to sign a 23 million dollar contract. Only his signature was needed when he walked out to pray. When he opened his Bible, he read, “Leave everything and follow me.” He told his band he wasn’t going to sign and walked out. That was 2005, and he left the band in obedience to God who was going to take him on a new road.

In 2013, he rejoined KoRn after God called him back. But this time, instead of getting high after a successful concert, Brian goes back stage to speak to people about God's love and forgiveness. He is able to reach people who would almost never listen to preachers and priests. He said in one of his interviews that he was put here on earth to have fellowship with God, to get to know Him. And that's what He strives to do every day. His Facebook page is filled with heavy metal lingo, but there are posts about ex-strippers telling their stories, and comments from fans like, "You guys have been one of the most important bands in my life for the last 20 years. And I shared a hard fought battle to Christ through my college years."

Yes indeed, Brian "Head" Welch, with his numerous tattoos, even one on his knuckles that reads "Jesus", is a new creation! He is an ambassador for Christ where he is. When Brian asked God for help, God showed him the way.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Chosen and Loved

Moses said to the people: “You are a people sacred to the Lord, your God; he has chosen you from all the nations on the face of the earth to be a people peculiarly his own.” Deuteronomy 7:6

Moses went on to explain, “It was not because you are the largest of all nations that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, for you are really the smallest of all nations.” We are loved by the same big God with the same big love! He chose us not because we are smart, beautiful, important, or even good. We are sacred to Him, set apart, to be peculiarly His own. He yearns for us. 

He already knew when He set our heart on us, that we would break it. He had a plan for His special, wayward people. He would send His Son, His only beloved Son, to be mangled and torn, by the same people He loved. How is this possible, we ask? 

US Navy Seal Michael Monsoor was assigned to train Iraqi Army soldiers in Ramadi in April 2006. He and his platoon were engaged in combat with insurgent forces on September 29, when a grenade was thrown on the rooftop where they were positioned. Monsoor did not think twice. He quickly threw his body over the live grenade, and saved several other Navy seals and Iraqi soldiers from serious injury or death. Monsoor died 30 minutes later after absorbing the effects of the explosion. 

We can ask ourselves if someone would do the same for us. Would someone be willing to die for us? Somebody already did. His name is Jesus Christ. 

Martin Luther King’s famous quote comes to mind, “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” As children of our Father in heaven, we have to learn this and live this. To repay hatred, bigotry, selfishness, anger, even murder, with acts and voices of love.

Thursday, June 15, 2023


“…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17

After Jesus died, the apostles saw Him several times. He told them that they would receive power, and that they were to proclaim the good news to all the ends of the earth. From timid, scared men who were in hiding, they became bold and fervent, and gave their witness every where. They preached and performed many miraculous signs. Some people would get healed just from being under Peter's shadow. So we can imagine the crowds and commotion that followed them!

The High Priest and the Sadducees were not happy about this! They were jealous and threw the apostles in jail. But an angel came in the night and set them free. "Go out now ...and preach to the people about this new life!" And so Peter and the apostles went back to the Temple at dawn and started preaching!

Do we realize that we too have been set free? It may not be from an actual jail cell, but sin and death can be as real and confining as a jail cell. If we have no addiction to sexual sin, if we have no need of inner healing, if we are free from depression, if we are not bound by a desire for alcohol, that is by the grace of God! We live in a broken society where so many are in need of freedom. If we are free, let us help others who are not free by giving them the message of life like the apostles were driven to do. If we have need of healing, let us go to Jesus and say, "Lord, I want to be free! Pour down Your grace upon me! I need You! Forgive me and heal my brokenness!" Truly God's lavish and extravagant grace, His unmerited favor, is available to all!

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

St. Anthony of Padua

"Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.” 

Matthew 5:19

Yesterday was the feast day of the well loved Saint Anthony of Padua. He is known to be the patron saint of lost things or people, and Catholics habitually pray for his intercession when we lose small or big things. That is because once he lost his book of psalms that contained many of his notes and comments. This book was very precious to him especially since the printing press had yet to be invented. He prayed, and the novice was moved to return it as well as other items he had stolen. That psalter is now preserved in the Franciscan friary of Bologna. 

What is not so well known is that Saint Anthony was a very effective preacher, even to the simple minded. This would not have been discovered had he not been forced to give the homily when there was no one else who was prepared to do so. The Dominicans who were well known for their preaching visited Anthony's Franciscan order, and assumed the Franciscans would give the homily but no one had prepared. The head of Anthony's hermitage then asked him to preach on whatever the Holy Spirit inspired him to speak of. To their surprise, Anthony delivered so moving and effective a sermon, that the news reached the ears of Saint Francis of Assisi. Saint Francis thereafter entrusted the teaching of his friars to Saint Anthony. 

Before this happened, Anthony had spent many hours in private prayer and study. There was a time he was very sick, and during his recuperation, he would read the Bible and learn from it. His sermons contained many passages from scripture, and in one surviving lecture, there are at least 183 Bible passages. 

One day when St. Anthony was in Rimini, there were many heretics mocking him, and refusing to listen to his preaching. St. Anthony then went to the seashore and talked to the fishes about God’s love. Many onlookers saw a shoal of fish with their head above the water listening. After that, the miracle story spread and Rimini was purged of heretics. 

Lord, like Saint Anthony, teach us from Your Word. Plant it in our hearts that it may bear fruit and we shall give You glory.