Sunday, March 31, 2024

Bridge to Life!

“Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; see, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.” (Mark 16:1-7) 

The reading for the Easter Vigil ends with verse 7. It does not include verse 8 which says, “And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” 

Father Herb Schneider at our mass yesterday intriguingly said that the end of the gospel of Mark is a question to each and everyone of us. Will we be like the women, will we be afraid and run away, or will we do as Jesus wants us to do, and “go and tell others, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”? 

Yesterday my 3 year old grandson watched the cartoon version of the crucifixion and the resurrection that Saddleback Church produced. He said it was amazing, and he had so many superlatives for the Easter miracle. During the flogging, he asked if Jesus was going to be all right. He was so fascinated with the dying and rising that he wanted to watch it again and again! 

Can we be like a little child and see the breathtaking, awesome gift God has given us, or are we so used to hearing about it every year that it hardly matters to us? 

Many people have said correctly that the moment we are born, we begin our descent to death. But for those of us who follow Christ, love Him and obey Him, He has built us a bridge to life. We can hasten to meet Him who is our hope! Let us also hasten to tell others that because Christ is truly risen from the dead, our pilgrim journey towards life and love is assured. 

A blessed, holy Easter season to everyone! 

Friday, March 29, 2024

Most Amazing Love

"It was our infirmities that He bore, our sufferings that He His stripes we were healed." Isaiah 53:4

The story of Jesus' crucifixion is the very heart of the heart of the Gospel. In the Garden of Eden, God pronounced man guilty of sin, and man was driven out of the garden.

In the crucifixion, it is man rejecting God from their city, and giving Him a death sentence!

And the amazing thing is God allows it! Why? Because of the most improbable love of all, the craziest, most amazing love!

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Speak to the Weary

“The Lord has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.” Isaiah 50:4

I think this verse refers to Isaiah the prophet, but it also points to Jesus. And as we are supposed to be imitators of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1), we should also strive to speak and write to the weary and discouraged, words that will rouse, encourage, and strengthen them. Many people are anxious at this time, confused and disheartened. We should think of ways to be Jesus to them. 

The thing is if we use our own words in our own strength, sometimes it just isn’t enough. Cordie was a member of the James Island Fire Department when they were called to put out a house fire. After he and the other firemen were able to extinguish the fire in the den, they started salvaging what they could, and cleaning up the burned materials. Cordie noticed that all the keys of the piano got melted into one lump from the intense heat. 

They continued to clean up until Cordie found a large book which turned out to be the family Bible. He brought it to the lady of the house. It was the only thing that survived intact. All the pages were undamaged! This experience impressed Cordie so much and taught him that the Word of God is indestructible and dependable. 

“The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God endures forever." (Isaiah 40:8) May we use this great gift of God’s Word to strengthen ourselves and others. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

One of You Will Betray Me

“One of you will betray me!” 

John 13:21

As we near the climax of the Lenten season, we accompany Jesus as He journeys toward His crucifixion. In John chapter 13, He very clearly shows He knows what is to befall Him. He gives the disciples a lesson on servanthood as He washes their feet. “This is the path of blessing.” 

In great anguish, He reveals, “One of you will betray me!” Judas left abruptly. Then Jesus talks about the new commandment He gives to them: Love one another as I have loved you. Your love will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Peter then bravely pronounces that he was ready to die for Jesus. “Die for me? Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me!” Jesus revealed. 

Sometimes we are like Judas, betraying Jesus when we sin against Him. Sometimes we are like Peter, desiring with all our heart to lay down our life for the Lord, and then denying Him with our words to others in the world. Are we brave enough to stand up for Jesus? 

We have to build up our faith because the time is coming when we will have to be brave just to stand on the side of truth and righteousness. During the Holocaust, a Pastor is memorialized in Corrie ten Boom’s story. When the ten Boom family was helping to save a Jewish baby from being killed, the Pastor dissuaded them asking how could they put their lives in danger for one baby. “You will all be killed!” 

Corrie’s 85 year old father Casper answered, “It would be an honor to die for God’s ancient people!” He and his family continued to aid the Jews to escape until they were arrested. He died in Scheveningen Prison 10 days after his arrest. Casper ten Boom and his family had a faith that sees beyond suffering, pain and trials. Do we? 

Monday, March 25, 2024

Thank You!

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1

A few years ago, when my pulmonary doctor talked to me and Luigi, we learned that because of a congenital condition, I developed blockage in both my lungs as a consequence of pulmonary embolism. Blood cannot carry the oxygen where it needs to go. No wonder I am usually breathless! The same day, another doctor said it was a miracle I was alive, and it was a miracle we have Josh! “Women with antithrombin III deficiency are prone to pregnancy-associated venous thromboembolism,” I read. I had a normal pregnancy except for a scare which turned out to be Josh hiccuping in my womb and bed rest towards the end of my pregnancy because of pre-eclampsia.

I can see that God wanted us to have a child, and a wonderful son at that, in spite of my condition, in spite of my being 38 years old! I marvel now at his goodness and faithfulness in giving us the gift of Josh. I see that even if there are natural causes conspiring against us, if God wants something for us, He will make a way even if there is no way. 

During this Lenten season it is good to pause and think of what God has done on Calvary for us. With all our sin, it would have been impossible to be with Him in heaven, to even get close to a sinless God. But He made a way where there is no way because He wants us there with Him! He wants us to be part of His divine family, His adopted sons and daughters. Thank You Lord for conquering the impossible for us! We should be insignificant but we aren’t! You love us so much You sent Your Son Jesus to get us into heaven! How infinitely precious we are to You! 

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Never a Waste

“Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil?” Mark 14:4

When Jesus was in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of intensely aromatic oil. She broke the bottle and poured the costly genuine spikenard on Jesus’ head. Spikenard during Bible times was used to anoint those of high honor, and symbolized the very best, like the “gold standard” does today. 

Because it was very expensive, perhaps worth 3 years’ wages, some were indignant. “It could have been sold and the money given to the poor!” What these indignant people did not realize was that whatever we give to Jesus will never be wasted. Our time, our money, our resources, our gifts and talents.  Whatever we give, He will use and multiply a hundredfold. 

Many people thought Mother Teresa was wasting her life on the poorest of the poor. But she was really wasting her life on Jesus. “Each one of them is Jesus in disguise,” she declared.  "If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one." And then one of my favorites: “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love."

Are we wasting our life doing small things with great love? Each one of us is unique and precious and has a role in building the kingdom of heaven. Lord, may I do my very best with the small things you have given me to do. May I not count it as a waste when I give my time, talent and treasure to Your work. 

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Never Give Up on Me!

“I will make with them a covenant of peace, it shall be an everlasting covenant...” 

Ezekiel 37:26

What mighty, all powerful person will persist in making agreements with someone who has proven to be unreliable again and again? Only God. The Israelites continued to disobey God, worship idols from their own hands, complain against Him, and marry women from other peoples. God asked Moses to lead them to the Promised Land when they repented for the nth time, and said, “But I will not travel with you, for you are an unruly, stubborn people. If I were there among you for even a moment, I would destroy you.” (Exodus 33:3,5)

Yikes! I can imagine God saying this to me sometimes when I keep repeating the same sins. Or saying this to our whole country! “I will not walk with You because you are unruly, stubborn, disobedient and blind. If I were walking among you even for a short time, I will destroy you.” 

And who could blame Him?”

But just as He kept calling Israel to be His own, He never gives up on us. The whole Bible is His love song for us. It is not only His way for us to know His laws and commandments, but also His way for us to get to know Him 

and His love for us. 

“I will be Your God and You will be my people!” (Ezekiel 37:27) Yes, irregardless of how many times we have broken faith with Him! 

Friday, March 22, 2024

Mighty Champion

“But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion.” Jeremiah 20:11

Who does not need a mighty champion? Like Jeremiah the prophet, we need someone who can defend us when we are being persecuted, when we are under trial. Jeremiah went through many difficulties, that is why he is sometimes called the “weeping prophet”. 

Today we certainly need a mighty champion. It seems like everyday, we get heartbreaking news about people who are sick, or have died. We get frustrated because it does not seem like enough is being done to secure the future of our children or to make sure our farmers,  fishermen and labor force get a viable income. Where do we turn? 

One of my favorite verses is from Exodus 14:13, when Moses tells the people to just stand firm when they were being pursued by Pharaoh’s mighty army with 600 of Pharaoh’s best chariots and charioteers. The Jews were caught beside the shore with nowhere to hide. 

Moses reassured, “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 only have to keep still.” We know what happened. The waters parted, the Israelites went through, and the chariots drowned when the waters closed in on them. 

As Holy Week approaches,  we need to see that sin is even deadlier than the Covid 19 virus or cancer or lack of a good education. When Jesus became man and was crucified, He took all our sins with Him. He is our mighty champion! All we need to do is repent, believe in Him, accept His saving work for us and receive His Holy Spirit. Pure grace. Pure gift. If our God is willing to do all that for us, what more can He be persuaded to do? 

Thank You Lord for grace, a way out of sin and a way into Your family. 

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Promise Keeping God

“You and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages." Genesis 17:9

Covenant. What is a covenant? It is an agreement, a commitment, a pledge. When Abraham was 99 years old, God told Abraham that He was El-Shaddai. He invited Abraham to walk with Him, and be trustworthy. And God, the Creator of the Universe, gave many amazing promises to Abraham. Kings will come from his line. Land. Blessing.

If we search the Bible, there are many promises that we too, as children of Abraham, may claim. As Paul writes to the Galatians in Chapter 3:7, "Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham." "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal. 3:9) We are heirs, and as heirs, we have an inheritance we can claim. The term "gold digger" has a negative connotation, but if we mine the Bible for promises we can lay hold on, we are like gold diggers. The only difference is, we are sure to find treasure! We don't want to be "strangers from the covenant of promise" (Eph. 2:12), do we? But that is exactly what we will be if we are without Christ. 

The promise to Abraham of universal blessing is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. It is amazing if we are able to fully grasp that when God invited Abraham to walk with Him, we were in God's mind and heart as well. God said, "I will always keep the promise I have made to you and your descendants, because I am your God and their God." (Gen. 17:7) How wonderful that we have a promise-keeping God!

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

What God Can Save You?

“Even if God whom we serve will not save us, know O King, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up." Daniel 3:18

For each martyr or saint that God saves from death, there are probably hundreds of thousands that He doesn't and prefers to bring home to Him. In this story of Daniel, the King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide, and he commanded that everyone bow down to it at the sound of a musical instrument. Anyone who doesn't would be thrown into a blazing furnace.

When it was found out that some Jews put in charge of Babylon defied this order, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were then called before the King. "Is this true?" the King asked, "I will throw you immediately into the furnace! What god can save you from my power?!"

But the three obstinately refused to bow down, saying, "Our God whom we serve can save us. But even if He doesn't, Your majesty can be sure we will not worship the golden statue you set up." 

Today there are no golden statues we are ordered to bow down to. We will not be thrown into a furnace if we do not follow a King's orders. The ways of the enemy are much more subtle. What are the idols today? Can it be ourselves? If we put ourselves before God than we are our own idol. If we reject God and His commandments, making our own rules and following our own path, if our purpose and goal is self-fulfillment and happiness, can we say that we are not our own god? I am not exempt from this tendency.

I keep hoarding more and more things like the man in the Luke 12 who thought to build bigger storehouses for his crops. But I do not have time enough to make use of all that I have and I keep acquiring more! Jesus ended His parable with the wise instruction: "Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God!"

Lord, may I realize my many follies. Teach me to put You first and to stop doing the things that bring me farther away from You. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2024


“His mother treasured all these things in her heart." Luke 2:51

How much pain can a mother go through in her lifetime? No one knows more than Mary! She was but a young girl when God called her to do a woman's job. The pain of knowing she was to be different from any other woman, set apart. While her son was growing in her womb, the uncertainty of the future, of how others would accept her and her Son. The bittersweetness of giving birth and watching Jesus grow up healthy, strong, wise and good, knowing that there was something big and terrible looming in the horizon. The suffering of having her heart torn when her only Son is tortured and reviled and then killed the cruelest way possible. 

Her reaction to all this? Treasuring. How can you treasure the pain? The suffering? The uncertainty? Obviously it is possible. By focusing on the eternal and not on what passes. Lord, may I learn to see through Your eyes. May I treasure not only the good times, but also the challenging seasons of my life. May I be so beguiled by You that I am always awaiting Your next message, Your next lesson, Your next intervention and experience for me! 

St. Joseph, pray for us! 

Monday, March 18, 2024

Sin No More

"Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more."John 8:10-11

In John chapter 8, we meet a woman accused of adultery. Scribes and Pharisees lead her to Jesus. Can we imagine her shame, her self-loathing, how dirty she feels when they force her to stand in front of everyone?

"Teacher," they said to Him, "This woman has been caught in the act of adultery. In the law, Moses ordered such women to be stoned. What do You have to say?" In the law, Dt. 22:24, both the man and the woman who sinned should be stoned. Why did they not bring the man if they wanted to follow the law? 

I imagine that I am one of the crowd. Do I condemn her and want to spit on her? Do I know her? Perhaps I knew her history and think, "Good! It's about time she gets her just punishment!” Do I pity her? Do I continue to jostle the crowd to see what happens out of curiosity, in satisfaction, or in revulsion, my eyes glued to the scene like it is a suspenseful thriller? What did Jesus do? He bent down and started tracing the ground with His finger. How many have attempted to surmise what He wrote? Why didn't John write down what He wrote? The thing is, He wrote, not for a second or a few seconds. He wrote all throughout the persistent questioning of the Scribes and Pharisees. He ignored them and their questions.

Finally He straightened up and said, "Let the man among you who has no sin be the first to cast a stone at her." Then He bent down and wrote on the ground again. Suddenly there is silence but for the shamed shuffling of feet. No one cast a stone, even if Jesus did not say DO NOT cast a stone in direct violation of Moses' law. I am one of the crowd, ashamed to have taken part in this poor woman's humiliation. I leave and do not know what happens next.

I believe when we sin, Jesus wants to meet us one to one. I like to think only the woman knew what Jesus wrote. Maybe John interviewed many and asked them if they knew what Jesus wrote. No one knew. But Jesus obviously thought it was important, as He spent much time writing it on the ground. Easily erased after the one it was meant for read it. When I sin, it is me and Jesus, against a condemning world. But Jesus did not come to condemn me, but to save me (Jn 3:17). When I sin, all I need is to stand, sit, kneel, or prostrate myself in front of Him. He will say, "I don't condemn you. Sin no more." And He will tell me words for me alone, no one else will know. 

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Fruitful Death

“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit." John 12:24

The lives of saints and martyrs are so fascinating for me. Aren’t they are like grains of wheat, seeds of faith, planted in the soil of men and women whose hearts' desire is to follow God? Some of the worldly bent would say they lost their lives in vain, but in the eyes of God, these precious men and women gave up, in the words of martyr Jim Elliot, that which they could not keep to gain what they cannot lose.

In the period of about 300 years when Christians were hunted like animals and persecuted in Rome, there are amazing testimonies, too many to count, of men and women who were willing to die for Jesus. Not only were these martyrs thrown to the lions, but some were doused in oil, and used to light up the streets of Rome! 

Martyrdom of St. Ignatius of Antioch, from the Menologion of Basil II, a manuscript currently in the Vatican Library. 

St. Ignatius of Antioch has the horrific distinction of being the first Christian martyr of the Colosseum. He was thrown to the lions and was said to exclaim, “I am as the grain of the field and must be ground by the teeth of lions, that I may become fit for His table.” 

Then there is St. Lawrence of Rome. He was deacon of the Church under Pope Saint Sixtus II at the time Christianity was outlawed. When the Pope was executed, St. Lawrence was then the highest official of the Church. As such, he was tasked to bring the treasures of the Church to the Prefect of Rome, for the use of Emperor Valerian.

St. Lawrence sold the sacred vessels and gave the money to the poor. Then he gathered all the widows, the orphans, the maimed, the leprous, the sick and brought them to the Prefect. “Here are the treasures of the Church," he proclaimed.

The Prefect got furiously angry that he had St. Lawrence bound to a gridiron and ROASTED!!!! There is a legend going around that St. Lawrence quipped, "This side is done, turn me around!"

But what he really said was, “Sheltered under the name of Jesus Christ, I do not fear these pains, for they do not last long.” Tradition holds that after St. Lawrence’ death, many turned to Christ as a result of his faithfulness to God and love for the poor. Yes, truly he was a grain of wheat that died and bore much fruit. 

May we follow the examples of the saints in the sacrifices we offer for God and for our brothers and sisters every day.