Monday, July 31, 2023

What is in Your Hand?

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.” Matthew 13:31

Mustard seeds planted today could begin growing tomorrow. It is a very tiny seed, but it has to be scattered by the farmer. It has to fall to the ground. A seed held in the farmer’s hand has no chance of growing into a bush. 

All of us are given gifts by God. Most of these gifts are very small and to our untrained eyes, quite insignificant. “What is in your hand?” God asked Moses in Exodus 4:2. Moses had a shepherd’s staff, an everyday thing during his time. “Throw it to the ground!” God told Moses, and it became a snake. Moses used his staff to perform signs that gave God glory. 

We too have some insignificant things in our hands, but if we “throw it to the ground”, it can grow from tiny seeds to shrubs, life-giving, and beneficial. It even grows in the desert. 

Whatever we have in our hand, however small or insignificant, we should offer to God. We will be surprised at what He can do when we open our hand and let our money, time, gifts, talents, abilities, words, or influence, fall to the ground of God’s field. Moses had his staff, David his slingshot, the little boy had loaves and fishes, Mary in Luke 10 had time. God took all of these ordinary, every day things, and used them to build His Kingdom. 

Lord, show me what I can offer You. Show me what You can use. I know You will bless and prosper everything I give to You. 

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Heart So Wise

“I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you.” 

1 Kings 3:12

Solomon, the young son of King David, asked the Lord for an understanding heart to be able to do a good job as King over God’s people. How many of us would ask for this instead of riches or power? Very few indeed. The Lord was pleased with Solomon and granted him his prayer. He gave Solomon “a heart so wise and understanding.”

It would be good to study the lives of saints to see concretely how to be loving, understanding and wise to encourage our fellow men. People like Saint Teresa of Calcutta are exemplary examples for us. One time a priest was leaving the chapel together with the Saint after a time of prayer. The priest seemed bothered and St. Teresa sensed some of what he was feeling. 

She offered him some encouragement, “Father, never walk out of the chapel feeling discouraged. Never think that you accomplished nothing. Never get angry or bitter with yourself. Realize that you can still give God your time in prayer. Even if you feel like you accomplished nothing, you can still give God your nothing.

That is classic Mother Teresa, is it not? I am relieved that I can give my Lord my nothing, for sometimes it is all I have, along with mistakes, mess ups and missteps. 

Saturday, July 29, 2023

One Thing

"One thing only is required..." Luke 10:42

Growing up, having guests in our home was a big thing and stressed my mother out. In contrast, my husband is quite comfortable to have guests visit even when we had no food. I remember when we were newly married, my husband brought someone home to share a meal with us. I was aghast because there was little to serve. What I remember was serving potato bread and little else. Luigi was confident enough to know our guest came for the company and not the meal. 

In the amusing story of Martha and Mary, we see how different the sisters were from each other. Martha was the one stressed out, preparing the meal for Jesus and His disciples. I can certainly relate to her! Obviously Jesus and the disciples were hungry and tired after walking all day, and were in need of sustenance. Mary, obviously the younger sister, sat at Jesus' feet, enrapt at what Jesus was saying. Perhaps Martha had been giving subtle signals to Mary to help her which Mary ignored, and then finally, she turns to Jesus. "Lord, doesn't it seem unfair to You that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me!" 

Uh oh! She lets her frustration and resentment show but she does not get the response she expects. Jesus gently rebukes her and I can see His kind eyes as He says, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and upset about many things; only one thing is required. Mary has chosen the better portion and she shall not be deprived of it." 

Lord, may I always choose the better portion. May I not be distracted from the many things and concerns of this world. May I get to know You and Your heart, and sit at Your feet like Mary, eager to learn what You want to teach me!

Friday, July 28, 2023

Bearing Fruit

“But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” Matthew 13:23

I don’t know how many times my mother read through the whole Bible because she read her Bible every day as far back as I can remember. She was no Bible scholar but she had conviction that the Word of God was true, living, and active. 

There were many students who asked to interview her because they wanted to know about our business, papemelroti, for school requirements. So she would reserve  one day a week on the weekend to answer their questions and talk to them. After the students asked all their questions, she would say, “Now it’s my turn.” And she would ask them what they believed and she would tell them about the God of the Bible. Actually almost anybody my mom talked to, the conversation would turn to God. She didn’t waste any opportunity to evangelize. Whether she was conversing with a supplier, a customer, a BIR agent or government employee, she managed to turn the direction of the conversation to God’s work in our lives. 

My mom and I used to go to mass at 6 am every day, and then visit the Blessed Sacrament together. Afterwards, we would talk and talk and talk about all sorts of things. If there was a problem or a challenge, we would try to see it through God’s eyes. When I told her in the hospital that the doctor said she had cancer, we cried and hugged each other and trusted in God’s love. For many years after that, she confessed God’s Word on healing and found His consolation and strength. 

When she passed away, many came to tell me that my mom helped them not only by encouraging them, and loving them, but also financially. She liked helping people with their livelihood and their problems. Truly I see how the seed sown on rich soil bears fruit.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

See and Hear

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” 
Matthew 13:16-17

Don Schwager, an American missionary, wrote, “God can only reveal the secrets of his kingdom to the humble and trusting person who acknowledges their need for God and for His truth.”

In the brutal war of Russia against the invading armies of Napoleon, Tsar Aleksandr Pavlovich resorted to going down on his knees in the Assumption Cathedral in the Kremlin. He kissed the holy relics and prayed for a miracle while Moscow was burning. According to one writer, God sent a “minor, minor prophet” in the form of a savage winter that ravaged Napoleon’s forces.

“The terrible sufferings of the French on their return march are well-known. There was even cannibalism, - a sure sign of apocalyptic times, - as the soldiers of the Great Army began to put their fellow-soldiers in the stew pots. Out of the vast army - nearly 600,000 men, only about half of whom were French - that set out for Russia, only 120,000 returned, 35,000 of them French. The Russians lost 400,000, but they had saved their homeland.” The Tsar had been humble enough to go down on his knees and acknowledge that they needed God’s help.

Today, here and now, we need God’s intervention. We need His Word. We need to go down on our knees to implore God to save us from an invisible but insidious enemy. There is a growing darkness all around the world, in the US, Europe, Asia, the Middle East. One of our leaders in our community sensed that, “God wants use all the challenges and difficulties of the darkness of our time for us to become more holy, more purified, more prepared, more inspired, by God’s Holy Spirit to be ready for the powerful mission that He has for us as His people.” Are we going to be sensitive and see and hear what God wants us to see and hear?

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

One in Spirit. One in Love.

“On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.” Matthew 13:1

I remember my father who loved the sea. Even when he was younger, he was always planning to build a boat. Before I was born, he acquired marine plywood to build one. But when my mom and dad were expecting me, the marine plywood was made into a crib! He had to wait several more years before he was able to build his first sailboat, an Optimist. It was quite a small dinghy and it was clearly for young people to learn to sail, and sail we did, making figure eights in the water. 

Daddy said many times that he felt closest to God when he was sailing. He said jokingly, that if he would write a book, it would be entitled, “Everything I Learned I Learned from Sailing”. Or something like that. When he was older and not able to handle a sailboat by himself, he would be so happy if Luigi, my husband, would bring him out for a run. Luigi said daddy was like a kid. Sometimes he would “wheeeee” in joy as the boat raced across the waves. 

But he was also content to just sit on a chair on the sand, and keep his eyes straight towards the sea. He could stay like that for hours. Sometimes we would accompany him in his reveries. Sometimes we could be noisy and he would happily join in. 

How wonderful it would be to find daddy again sitting by the sea but he has passed on ahead of us, and we will meet him again one day. But if we sit down quietly, we CAN sit beside Jesus. It can be down by the sea, up on a mountaintop, or just in our room. Hopefully we gaze in the same direction, one in Spirit. One in love. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Treasure in Earthly Vessels

“We hold this treasure in earthen vessels...” 2 Corinthians 4:7

What is this treasure that Saint Paul tells the people of Corinth about? This precious treasure is the light and surpassing power of God’s Spirit within us. We are perishable earthen vessels, from dust we are created, and to dust we will return. Death is at work in us every minute, every second of every day. Cells, tissues are dying, memories wither, ideas change. And yet God chose to put His indomitable Spirit within each of us. We either bring it out and let it shine forth, or we squash and destroy it in selfishness and greed. 

Whenever I think of the indomitable spirit God has put in man I remember the survivors and victims of the Holocaust. I think of people like Gerda Weismann Klein, who wrote about it, and travels the world to tell her story. She and her husband Kurt started a foundation to stop hunger and to teach tolerance. 

In 1942, she and her family were separated. She and her brother were sent to slave labor camps, her parents to Auschwitz, and her father was sentenced to the gas chamber. 

Hours before her father boarded the train to Auschwitz, he looked up from his Bible and told her to wear ski boots when she boarded her train. It was June, how could he have known that 3 years later, those boots would save her life as she trudged on a 1,000-mile death march in the dead of winter through Germany to Czechoslovakia? In her book, “All But My Life”, she recounts how the faith, love and courage of her family, of her grandfather,  kept her from killing herself.

She remembers the last night her parents were together, “And so they talked on through the night, animated and happy. They faced what the morning would bring with the only weapon they had - their love for each other. Love is great, love is the foundation of nobility, it conquers obstacles and is a deep well of truth and strength. After hearing my parents talk that night I began to understand the greatness of their love. Their courage ignited within me a spark that continued to glow through the years of misery and defeat. The memory of their love - my only legacy - sustained me in happy and unhappy times in Poland, Germany, Czechoslovakia, France, Switzerland, England. It is still part of me here in America."

Father, thank You for the Spirit You put within us. May we always radiate hope and courage in the midst of darkness. 

Monday, July 24, 2023

Fear Not!

“Fear not! Stand your ground, and you will see the victory the Lord will win for you today…The Lord himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still.” Exodus 14:13-14

I read a story of a young man who attended boot camp. The training officer put him and the others in the camp through rigorous training, showing them how to use the guns and ammunition. The officer showed them a grenade, and explained, “The one problem with using these is their unpredictability, but the biggest problem is if a soldier doesn’t throw the grenade at just the right time, because of the time delay, the enemy may pick it up and throw it back before it explodes.”  Then he took out the pin and “accidentally” dropped it to the ground. He shouted, “Run! It’s going to explode!” Then laughed when everybody scampered. “Get back here, you cowards,” he barked. 

When the trainees were heading for lunch, a bus arrived, and the young man recognized a friend from high school. In just a few minutes he told his friend that if he got so and so as a training officer, this is what he’ll do with a grenade. Sure enough his friend underwent the same training with the same officer. When the officer dropped the grenade, the friend got down and covered the grenade with his body. He was the only one who got an award for courage in boot camp! And neither he nor his friend told them why!

It’s easy to be brave if we know there is no danger. We may undergo all sorts of trials, suffering and tribulations, but if we know the Lord is with us, that He will never forsake us, and all our experiences are because God is transforming us into better people, we will not be moved. We will not be shaken by circumstances that seem hopeless. We will stand on His Word that, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). We need to be steadfast because like the grenade, the enemy can use our trials to destroy us, to make us feel weak, hopeless and desperate. We need to use our weapons of prayer, and reading the Word to protect us from the evil one who wants to destroy us. 

It is good to read the whole of Ephesians 6:10-18, to be reminded to “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

Sunday, July 23, 2023

God is Patient

“The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.” Matthew 13:24

The disciples asked Jesus to explain to them the parable of the good seed and the weeds in the field. While the man was sleeping, an enemy sowed weeds among the wheat. The man told his servants to allow the weeds to grow with the wheat, but during harvest time, they are to be gathered and burned. In this parable, Jesus identifies this weed as Zizania (Greek). This type of weed, known as Darnel, grows in Palestine and resembles wheat, except that it is poisonous. It is almost impossible to tell the two apart except at harvest time. Wheat has brown grain and Zizania has black grain.

Is it not that when there is a news story about a man or woman who starts shooting people, or who holds someone hostage, or brings a plane down, there are always relatives or neighbors who say, "He was a good man/ woman, a good neighbor/ classmate/ co-worker. I would never think he/she would do that!! No indication at all!" 

It is only when wheat and the Zizania "bear fruit" that we can identify which is which. In the same way, it is only with our fruit that we know if we are children of God or children of the enemy. The enemy continues to sow bad weeds among us, people who bring confusion, anger, division, hatred of God and man, persecution, etc. into the world.

The way the parable ends, the man who sowed good seed said, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.” What this parable makes certain is there is hell, a place for the weeds, and it seems futile to say that God is too good to allow people to burn in it. God is patient and always gives ample time for people to realize their sin and turn back to Him. More importantly, we need to reflect on what kind of fruit are we bearing?

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Stand Strong

“They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” John 20:2

I find the resurrection story fascinating. Although a lot of people would discount it as a myth, I know the story is an eyewitness account. Many, many people saw Jesus walking around, talking, eating, and many saw him ascend to heaven! A lot of those people were willing to die and be tortured rather than take back their narrative.

To believe in the resurrection, which has more proof than the existence of other historical figures, do we have to believe in God? Is there enough proof that God exists? 

In 1966, Time Magazine came out with one of its most iconic covers. No picture, just red text on a black background. It read: Is God dead? It was one of the most talked about articles and prompted 3,421 letters to the editors. 

What is amazing is since that article, more and more proof of God’s existence has been appearing! So much so that Eric Metaxas, an American author, speaker and radio host, wrote a book entitled, “Is Atheism Dead?” I am still deciding whether to buy the Kindle version of the book because it is not in my budget. And I don’t think I’ll meet any atheists soon. I want to read the book mainly because I want to be awed, flabbergasted at the beauty, the brilliance of God’s creation! A lot of what Metaxas writes is probably on the web- the fine tuning of the universe and archaeological proof of biblical events like the destruction of Sodom. We just have to take the time to research, listen on YouTube, and be prepared to be amazed! BECAUSE the mainstream press seem not to be covering these stupefying discoveries! Even the big big news that prominent atheist Jean-Paul Sartre had a death bed conversion was not widely disseminated! There’s a bias against Christianity and prejudice against Christians. That’s why we have to stand strong and committed just like the early Christians were. 

Friday, July 21, 2023

New Every Morning

“This month shall stand at the head of your calendar: you shall reckon it the first month of the year." Exodus 12:2

This is God's instruction to the Israelites when they were still in the land of Egypt, before the first Passover. He wanted them to start counting their days with a new calendar. The Jews had been in Egypt for more than 400 years and they were used to the Egyptian calendar which was based on the predictable flooding of the Nile. The economy, culture, religious life of Egypt all revolved around this important holiday period, the Wafaa-El-Nil, which is still celebrated today starting on August 15 and goes on for two weeks. The Egyptian calendar year was divided into 3 seasons of flooding, growth and harvest. This was not what God wanted and it was very important that the Jews started out with a new calendar.

Our calendars should reflect what is important to us. It should show what we focus our attention on. Do we block off time for worship and fellowship with brothers and sisters? Can we see that we set aside time for God in our schedule? If we see that we have not really prioritized time with God in our calendar, I like to think we can always start again. Create a new calendar! After all, God's mercies are new every morning! (Lamentations 3:23)

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Who is He to You?

“I am who am.” Exodus 3:14

After arguing with Jesus, the Jews picked up stones to kill Him. They were aghast that He claimed the divine name of YAHWEH. This name, frequently translated as “I AM WHO AM”, was the answer God gave Moses when he asked, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

In the “Cathechism of the Catholic Church”, this is what is written in verses 203 ff:

“God revealed himself to his people of Israel by making his name known to them. A name expresses one's essential identity and the meaning of one's life. God has a name; he is not an anonymous force. To disclose one's name is to make oneself known to others; in a way it is to hand oneself over by becoming accessible, capable of being known more intimately and addressed personally.

206 In revealing his mysterious name, YHWH ("I AM HE WHO IS", "I AM WHO AM" or "I AM WHO I AM"), God says who he is and by what name he is to be called. This divine name is mysterious just as God is mystery. It is at once a name revealed and something like the refusal of a name, and hence it better expresses God as what he is - infinitely above everything that we can understand or say: he is the "hidden God", his name is ineffable (“too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words”) and he is the God who makes Himself  close to men.

207 God, who reveals his name as "I AM", reveals himself as the God who is always there, present to his people in order to save them.”

Father, I thank You that You reveal Yourself to Your people. You did not hide Yourself from us, but You have revealed Your name, Your character, Your love and faithfulness for us, Your people. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

The Invitation

“I am the God of your father,” He continued, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” Exodus 3:6

In 1972, a Navy man stationed at Point Mugu, California drove to Las Vegas to see Elvis Presley in a midnight show. Presley called him out during the performance and thanked him for his service. Towards the end of the show, a man came and asked if the Navy man wanted to meet Elvis and escorted him backstage. A freshly showered and hyped up Elvis came out, sat and talked. He asked where the army man was from, how he liked serving his country and what music he liked. He also asked about his family and he was so interested and so down to earth. It was an amazing experience the Elvis fan would never ever forget! 

That was just Elvis Presley, King of Rock and Roll. How awesome it would be if the King of Kings were to open the curtain that separates us from His Holiness and Power,  invite us backstage, and introduce Himself to us just as He introduced Himself to Moses!!! Imagine Him asking us about our life, our concerns, our experiences, and really spending time to listen to us! 

In the Book of Revelation 3:20, we can read this invitation from Jesus, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” He is waiting for us to open the door. He does not barge in. God wants us to have a relationship with Him but we have to say yes! 

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

God’s Plan

“It is one of the Hebrews' children." Exodus 2:6

I am thinking that the daughter of the Pharaoh who picked up Moses from the little basket among the reeds must have regretted her disobedience to her father. The Princess adopted him and he grew up with her son. But when he was older, he visited his people, the Israelites, and saw how hard they were forced to work. Eventually Moses delivered his people from the hardness of Pharaoh and the Egyptians. He caused the death of many of her people. She must have felt very bitter toward Moses. She probably labeled him as proud, and an ingrate.

Is there someone we are bitter about? Perhaps we should try to see him through God's eyes. God had a plan for Moses, and if the Princess saved him from the water or not, God would have found a way to fulfill His purpose for Moses. 

Sometimes there are people who are hard to love or appreciate. We have to try to see them through God’s eyes. Use us Lord to further Your plans even if we do not understand. We trust in You! 

Monday, July 17, 2023

I Have Wings!

"Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple." 

Luke 14:27

Cross. Even the word scares me. Instead of looking at the "crosses" in our life as misfortunes, with dread, alarm, resignation, could we ever be joyful about them, excited even? “I've got the Big C!!! Be happy for me!!!" Probably not. Unless we really embrace the fact that God's love for us will never allow anything remotely bad for us. 

Suffering is God's opportunity in disguise.

"Be like a bird that, halting in its flight

Rests on a bough too slight,

And feeling it give way beneath him SINGS,



Carrying our cross is an opportunity to discover our wings!