Sunday, January 01, 2017

From Year of Mercy to Year of Peace

For the first time in three years, I was able to celebrate Christmas and New Year in my native land. One of the advantages of coming home is going to our neighbourhood parish which is only a 7-minute walk from the house.

On Christmas day, the priest recounted an anecdote about the many traditions we hold in our families to celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of Christ. One of the more common tradition we have is the giving of gifts. The priest told of his experience with his 5-year-old granddaughter who handed out the gifts to all the family members and then lingered around the tree. She looked under and over looking for something until the priest-grandfather asked, "What are you looking for?" the little girl answered "I'm looking for the gift for Jesus. It's His birthday." Dumbfounded, the priest held this in his heart until today - 10 years on. I heard this message. 

Sometimes, we are so preoccupied about asking for gifts from above that we forget to give the gift we can to Jesus who lovingly gave His life for us. The priest continues to say what gift we could give to Him: FORGIVENESS. 

The year 2016 was the Year of Mercy and all catholics were called to be merciful to one another. 
This new year 2017 was declared the Year of Peace. 

The priest in his homily speaks of our lack of contentment from the blessings we receive. We forget to have a treasuring heart or a thankful heart for all the blessings we receive because we concentrate on what is not there. 

He goes on to tell a story of a grandmother who sat on the beach praying while watching over her grandson when a tsunami hit and the sea engulfed the boy. The grandmother admonished God saying "But I pray everyday, I say the novena. How can you do this to me? How can you take my grandson?" Then another tsunami hit and brought back the boy. She then said "He had a cap on when he left, now he doesn't."

The priest emphasized that we are often like that. Instead of being thankful for what is there, we look for what is not there. 

Going back to the message of Christmas, we are called to give the gift of forgiveness to one another as a sign of mercy and testament of God's unconditional love to us. In this New Year we are called to take this mercy and to extend a hand of peace to our neighbour and to be instruments of God's peace and to have a treasuring heart. To have peace in our lives, we must have peace in ourselves. To have peace, we must be happy with what God has given us and to see the blessing in everything. 

Aptly, the New Year's mass ended with the song "Let there be peace on earth" which ends "and let it begin with me". 

So this new year, may we be instruments of peace in our daily lives, be it at work or at home. 

Happy New Year to you and your family. May God bless you. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Pause. Press. Play.

The week started out like a normal week. So ... I thought. I was about to take a flight out of London after visiting my cousin. As I left London, the sky cried like there was no tomorrow. My cousin said I took the sun away. My nieces started crying too and my nephew was sad. So much water around. So much that even the fuel of the plane I was on had water in it. So the flight was cancelled.

PAUSE.

One of the lessons of that weekend was to take a moment ... a moment to pray. So, in the midst of the cancelled flight a thought entered my mind. A day for a life. What is a day compared to a saved life. The pilot had announced how dangerous it would have been to fly with water in the fuel. It would have been disastrous. Instead, we spent hours in queues going back through immigration, getting rebooked at the flight transfer desk, waiting for the bus to the hotel, getting our rooms, getting our vouchers. It seemed like endless waiting. Sometimes, life seems to not move forward or there are so many hindering circumstances but really, it's just a time to pause. To reflect. To pray.

PRESS.

While spending some time in Swindon with my cousin, she had reminded me of the importance of prayer. But not just any prayer but a prayer that "pestered God". The reading for this Saturday was about the judge that gave into the demands of the widow lest she strike him down with her persistence. So, in our prayer we should ... PRESS on ... to keep asking God day and night for our heart's desires. Yes, He knows what we want before we even ask but just like the widow, wouldn't God give to us what we ask for if we persist in prayer, if we press on?

I had been putting off a certain work-related talk because I thought it was not necessary but God knew how important it was to get it off my chest and He made a way for it to happen. I believe it was because of prayer, prayers offered for me by dear friends.

Two friends also went on retreat this week. I was blessed to receive the messages of God through them, even if vicariously. I heard Him loud and clear.

One friend's retreat spoke of Jesus' first miracle - the Wedding at Cana. Just like the empty vessels that was to receive the water turned into wine, we are called to invite Jesus to come into our lives especially when we feel empty. Sometimes, we need to be empty so that God can fill our emptiness. Just like the servants who were asked to fill the vessels, we are also called to do what God says. And finally, we are called to act.

On the second day of the retreat, the message was forgiveness - to be forgiven, feel forgiven and be forgiving. The example was that of the paralytic who was lowered from the roof. As God forgives, we must also give of that forgiveness so lovingly given. This theme tied in with another friend's retreat where she was asked to carry a stone for a whole day and then leave it at the foot of the Cross so that Jesus may take it away. We often hold on to the stones in our lives weighing us down because we think we are not worthy of forgiveness. God calls us to let go and to let God.

On the third day of the retreat was the Last Supper. Before partaking of the bread, Jesus in humility washes the feet of the disciples and in this humble act we see the greatness of God. We are called to be servant-leaders and to heed the example of Jesus' humility as we serve and lead others.

The fourth day of the retreat, the theme was the value that God gives to each and everyone. Jesus cured a hunchbacked lady on the Sabbath in a synagogue. In a time when women had no value, a sick woman was considered a nobody. Jesus gave her the value that she thought she didn't or couldn't have. With Jesus, we have boundless worth and value even if we think we are worthless.

PLAY.

It's all good to pause and press but we also have to act - to press the "Play" button, so to speak. We need to act. It is not enough to pause, to pray and to pester God, it is also important to act. Just like the servants who did what Jesus asked them to do, we are to do God's will in our lives, however difficult.

I remember my cousin's voice saying, "Do something". It's not enough to pray.

One of my actions is to write about the message I received so I can also share what I learned. I hope that I gave justice to my friends as they relayed to me the message of God.

One of my commitment to action is to serve at church. I am part of a music ministry. I am a happy musician playing the guitar in the background and when I get asked to sing, I feel like having a heart attack. I sang one song today and it went well. Although I missed the entrance to my second verse, it still went well. God has given me a voice, good enough to sing, so I faced my fears and sang. It was a way of giving back and to act.

Today, I also met my mentee who I will be walking with, in faith, for the next six months. It seems like a daunting task but I feel very honoured to be able to accompany a confirmandi, a candidate for confirmation, with her faith walk. I often feel unworthy to accompany anyone with their faith as I too struggle with mine but I feel it is God's way of keeping me in line, to share of God's goodness and blessings because He has given me so much.

To play is also a call to ACTION ... (Act like Christ To Invite Others Near). We are also called to be God's disciples, a human representation of God on earth so that we can invite others to Him.

So the message of the week was pause, press and play. Pause to pray, pray in persistence and play to perform what God intends for us. 


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Land of the brave

I recently visited the US again. I often go to New York to visit my best friend. This time, I also got to visit a dear friend whom I had not seen for over 10 years. He lives with his family in Arizona. What an amazing trip this was.

Having travelled most of my life, I still marvel at the courage of those who have decided to uproot themselves to pursue their dreams, their love or to try out their luck in an unfamiliar land - not their own. It's difficult enough to move around a country but to move from country to country, that's courage.

The story of my friends are all too common. Jam decided to pursue a better life in New York and Luige followed his heart in Arizona. But it doesn't always end well. I'm glad it did for these two friends.

I truly believe that more than the "land of opportunities", the US is the "land of the brave". How many migrants have tried out their luck here with barely nothing in their pockets. I'm talking the first wave of migration and the land expeditions. It must have taken so much courage and hope to start anew.

Having seen my friends thrive in their milieu, I am amazed at the strength and courage they have displayed. Jam, a linguist by training, a teacher by calling, virtually knocked on every school to find work. And when she did, she taught her heart out. I'm sure that Jam has made such a difference in many students' lives. One of them, showing courage. I am in awe of Jam and all that she has had to endure just to get where she is now. She is one of the people that makes the US worth calling the "land of the brave". Now, she is a school director and still making a difference in every child's life she is able to mould with her kind heart. Aside from teaching, Jam also found her love in New York. She is now happily married and owns a home in Long Island. A real success story.

Luige, on the other hand, was a star journalist. He worked for the leading newspaper in the Philippines. He made front page almost every day. He wrote hard-hitting stories and exposés. But he asked himself what he wanted to be remembered for when he died. What would he write on his epitaph. Luige is gifted with the use of words, so it's just apt he is a journalist. His answer was: I did not want to be remembered as writing for a newspaper. He told me that every story is a great love story. His certainly was. He fell in love with Pearl from the very beginning when he saw her in the track oval at their school in the Philippines. Pearl had long beautiful hair and she was smart. Every guy's dream I would say. Luige decided to marry Pearl before she left for her nursing career in Arizona and years later, they were blessed by an equally intelligent little boy - Sol Elijah. Sol means "sun" and he certainly is a shining light in his parents' lives and we were blessed enough to have received some too. Luige didn't have any qualms about joining Pearl but like many established journalists, there were doubts of how to write again and for whom. He ended up working for the Arizona Capitol Times covering the Senate and House of Representatives beat. Now, he is an editor.

Jam and Luige are two of the many success stories that make up the land of the brave. With their courage and strength, they contribute to the richness of the US. It makes it all worthwhile to visit over and over again. Not just to marvel at city sights or the Grand Canyon but to meet these two wonderful people and their equally awesome partners in life.

Thank you for your friendship Jam and Luige. I am truly blessed to have you as my best friends. 

No one else but You

I hear you loud and clear.
No one else but You.
I look but I cannot see
what I am looking for.
And then You show me what I had not seen.
Love is all around me,
in the gifts of those You've sent me.
I see You in all of them.
I see Your smile, Your heart.
I see the kindness and compassion,
I see Your love for me.
And because I have it,
I shall look no more.
It has been You all along.

(Thank you God.)

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

You don't own your time

"You don't own your time."

That was the message I took from the homily last Sunday. The father of our youth minister, who is also a deacon, preached to us. I was in tears during the entire homily.

Yes, we don't own our time. It is a gift given to us by God. He continued to illustrate time by saying that we had 86,400 seconds to every day and that even though we don't own our time, we can choose what to do with it. We can choose to answer God's call to love Him and our neighbours with the time he has given us.

He opened with a passage from Isaiah 6:8

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
When we share our time, we answer the call of God "Whom shall I send?" with "Here am I. Send me!"

I was particularly touched by the message that when we say yes to a stranger's call for help and we give them the time, we say to God, "Here am I. Send me!" It is to say that you have shared a piece of your time, a gift of your life with another to be an instrument of love to another person.

This past week, after hearing this message, I had started reflecting if I had given enough time to the call of God.

God answered me.

Monday.

I received a gift from a friend who had just gone to Portugal. She considers me a special friend to her and I consider her to be special to me. She is a gift I am blessed to have in my life. She is also my Spanish tandem which makes it all the more exciting to learn Spanish.

Later that day, I receive a call from a lady I met at JFK International Airport in New York. She is the mother of one of my neighbours. What a small world?! She had remembered me during her stay in the Philippines and brought me a sugary treat. We had spent only a few minutes conversing in the airport yet she invites me over to her daughter's house here and shares a meal with me.

Earlier that day, I also receive a vote of confidence on my writing that after years, a note I created in 2012 continued to touch her until today. I felt so special that my words could touch people and of course, the credit goes to God who is only using me.

Tuesday.

I continue to think about the blessings God has given me and how my time has been spent on this earthly life.

Wednesday.

I receive a call from a friend who is now in Hungary. I had written about this friend in this blog a few years back and somehow, we are connected. I think of her and then all of a sudden, I receive a text message. She said that I sometimes cross her mind too. Then today, Wednesday, I think of her and she calls me from Hungary. She asks how I am and we exchange stories.

====

The message is loud and clear that somehow I have been sharing my time in the way God wants me to. I feel validated. Thank you Lord for giving me some time on this earth and hopefully with the remaining time I have, I can continue to answer your call to send me to those who need You in their lives. Let me also be open to Your presence in my life by letting other people share their time with me.

I know it has been ages since I wrote about You or about anything but thank you for reminding me that you have given me the talent to write and I should use that for your great glory.

Thank you for my friends, especially mken, Boots, who has encouraged me to write and to all my friends who said I should write a book. I am going to.

====

And to end my note, I share this message on the importance of time taken from the Internet:

Realize the value of time. Time in perspective.


Imagine there is a bank which credits your account each morning with $86,400, carries over no balance from day to day, allows you to keep no cash balance, and every evening cancels whatever part of the amount you had failed to use during the day.

What would you do?
Draw out every cent, of course!
Well, everyone has such a bank. It's name is time.
Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds.
Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to good purpose.
It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft.
Each day it opens a new account for you.
Each night it burns the records of the day.
If you fail to use the day's deposits, the loss is yours.
There is no going back. There is no drawing against the tomorrow.
You must live in the present on today's deposits.
Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness and success!
The clock is running. Make the most of today.

To realize the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade.
To realize the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby.
To realize the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.
To realize the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
To realize the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who missed the train.
To realize the value of ONE SECOND, ask a person who just avoided an accident.
To realize the value of ONE MILLISECOND, ask the person who won a silver medal in the Olympics.

Treasure every moment that you have! And treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time.

And remember, time waits for no one.
Yesterday is history.
Tomorrow is a mystery.
Today is a gift. That's why it's called the present.




Tuesday, March 18, 2014

3Rs of Lent

I have been accompanying a friend through her faith walk since September. We have been making this journey with other people discerning and deepening in faith. 

This is an every Tuesday event. It does't replace my Tuesdays with PA (with God) time but I have neglected to write my thoughts. 

Today, we were asked to talk to our neighbour about what Lent has meant to us. I was privileged to speak with a friend who said that for him Lent is about 3Rs - Reflection, Renewal and Remembrance. 

Reflection 
Lent is an inward reflection or journey into one's self, assessing what needs to be sacrificed as God did during His 40 days of fasting and prayer. A lot of people in the class spoke about giving up worldly pleasures and looking into what real happiness means. Lent is a time to really look at what is essential, a sort of spiritual spring cleaning. It is a time to slow down and to listen and be silent. It also has to do with controlling one's self, not just for the season but as a gradual transformation. Another classmate said that she is trying to live Lent daily in her life. Her life has become a continuous prayer. This brings me to the 2nd R. 

Renewal
My friend said that for him, Lent is a renewal of faith. It is an opportunity to bring back life to our spiritual life. Lent is a time when coupled with reflection can give new meaning to faith or give a refreshing look at faith. Going back to transformation, Lent can be a new beginning or a new resolve to change for the better. God has sent the Holy Spirit to help us and this is a time when we can open our hearts to listen to His call and to deepen our faith in Him. 

Remembrance
The 3rd R is remembrance of Christ. Lent is a time when we relive the 40 days of sacrifice of God before He gave up Himself for our sins and saved us. It is a time when we remember the great love that God has bestowed upon us - Love equivalent to giving us His only Begotten Son. What a wonderful gift. 

Reconciliation
I would like to add a 4th R to this Lenten reflection - reconciliation. Today in class, we learned about confession or reconciliation. It is a sacrament of freedom given to us so that we may be united with Him and unburden ourselves from the guilt of our sins and by remembering the great parables of the prodigal son and the woman who was caught in adultery. "Has no one condemned you? Neither will I! Sin no more!" What a great burden lifted from her shoulder to know that she is loved beyond measure. What about the son who returned to become a slave hand only to find that his father did not want to hear his speech and instead threw a party upon his return. God is only waiting for us to return to Him and be reconciled with Him and our neighbours, to bestow on us His great love. He doesn't ask questions, He only ask that we be sorry and to sin no more. And even if we keep sinning, because we are imperfect, the sacrament of reconciliation offers us a new beginning. 

So for Lent, I leave you with the 4Rs - Reflection, Renewal, Remembrance and Reconciliation. 

I hope that the season of Lent will be meaningful for you and that your spiritual journey will be filled with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and that God may let you feel His unconditional love. 

God bless you. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas - of small things and Jesus

I could not have asked for better gifts this Christmas. God has given me all that I needed. 

But Christmas is not about gifts, at least material ones. It's about giving love. Yes, it may sound like a cliché but it is really about giving love. 

This Christmas, I could not give material things to the people I love. So, I gave them my time and energy - because that was what I had. The same with my family. 

My mother came to visit me and she didn't give any other material gift. Her presence was 100 times better than any gift she could have given me. 

Tomorrow, my other late Christmas gift from God is the presence of my elder brother and his family. My gift would be the time I spend with them, especially with my little cutie nephew. 

I received one of the best gifts from Mken. She made a comic strip of why I should be named Time's Person of the Year. It was funny and witty and most of all heartwarming. Years past she would give me a gadget, an expensive one, but this gift made my heart melt. It's not every day that someone chooses you to be Person of the Year. 

My other gifts include, as I mentioned earlier a car. It has come in so useful. Yes, I drove off with the gas nozzle the other day. But the gift there was that the gasoline station owner said that it was okay and I didn't have to pay for anything. Phew! I instantly looked up articles on how much a gas nozzle would cost. FYI, it can cost a few dollars to thousands depending on the damage. To top that off, I think God is really spoiling me. There was a policeman when I drove off with the nozzle. He was off duty and he took my details and even called the firemen to check up the area as my gas was natural gas. He had called the day after to ask whether I had called the station. After further inquiry, he bid us Merry Christmas and that everything was okay. Had he not been there, I would be a wanted lady right now. 

How do all of these tie up together? Well, it's about the small things. Like baby Jesus. He came into the world. Innocent, born in a stable and rested in a manger. How humble a beginning can you have? He shows us that it's not about your stature or your heritage. It is about your heart and the love that you give to others. He dined with sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors - people whom society deemed not fit for social consumption. He gave them His time, His presence, His love and forgiveness. For some people, these are small things. But these are the small things that people appreciate - time and energy and presence and sometimes forgiveness. 

It is the small things that prevent you from making big mistakes like making sure that the gas nozzle had been removed before driving off. Or paying the car insurance as soon as you get the bill, should anything happen. That was the lesson I learned when I accidentally ripped off the gas pump. 

I could write about the many gifts God had given me even before Christmas came. I am especially thankful that Mken got her papers. The feeling of insecurity of living in a country not your own is unnerving yet it teaches us patience and strength. It teaches us how to hope and to surrender all to God. A piece of paper may be a small thing but behind that paper was prayers. Our family and friends prayed for us, for our interview at the immigration office. We asked our angels - both living and in heaven - to say a prayer for us. The experience of having people pray for you is a humbling and wonderful. It may seem small for others to say a little prayer but it has its weight in gold! Prayer goes a long way. 

And I have to say that God has gifted me with good friends and people that surround me. I am awed. They are generous. They ask for nothing in return. They give love to all they meet. They show their kindness and generosity in such subtle ways. Thank you Lord for these people in my life. Their presence is a present in my life. I learn daily to give of your love because of them. 

This Christmas, God has taught me that it's the small things that we neglect that are so important. As Christmas closes to an end, may you and your family be blessed. May you cherish each other's company, even if you may be materially lacking. Nothing can replace your family. It is priceless. 

May we give of love every day, in small ways, because it is these small things that matter. 

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS. 

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Tuesdays with God

About two years ago, I started a date time with God and called it "Tuesdays with P.A." in imitation of Tuesdays with Morrie. It was a weekly ritual of writing down God's message to me for the week. It was a consecrated time when I would sit down and write and share with other people, through my writing, my pondering about God.

I had neglected that ritual for some time now.

But I wanted to share what has happened to me recently.

It was on a Tuesday that God gave me a car in a lottery at the office. I had never won anything so big in my entire life. I was so surprised that I was shaking for a few hours and I went to mass to give thanks to God that day. I couldn't stop crying. Good thing the mass was a remembrance mass for the dearly departed. My tears of joy was masked as tears of sorrow and remembrance. That was 19 November.

Winning the car was a funny story. The lady that called me to say I had won it was a classmate in French class. I thought she was calling to ask about our homework that day because she had been busy organizing and participating in our office's bazaar. This was the conversation:

A: Hello, this is A, may I please speak with Ms. E.
Me: Hi A, this is P, your classmate in French.
A: Who am I speaking to?
Me: A, it's me, P, the Philippine, your classmate in French.
A: The little Philippine in class?
Me: Yes, that one.
A: Oh my God, P, you won the car!
Me: What? Oh my God! Oh my God!
A: (Talking ... but I couldn't concentrate on what she was saying)
Me: Oh my God ... (walking out of my office and going to my friend's office saying: I won the car. Smiling and shaking)

It was also funny that at the closing of the bazaar, I took a picture of the whiteboard with all the winning numbers. I thought I would check the numbers when I go home. Little did I know that I would win the grand prize.

I didn't tell anybody else that I had won the car that night until I found the ticket. I told my family though and I said I had to check where my ticket was. They asked if it was a hoax. When I found it at home and went to mass that Tuesday, news had already travelled and everybody greeted me with a congratulations as I entered church. The lady that sold me the winning ticket had already told everybody. When she sold me the ticket she had expressly said, "Take this ... this is my favourite number". I bought it and that was the winning ticket.

Two weeks later, on a Tuesday, 3 December, I finally received the car. The German ambassador, whose Mission had donated the car, had come to the VW garage for a photo op. The car - a VW eco up! - was unveiled and Voidieu (short for Voiture de Dieu - in English - Car of God) was given to me. We call her V for short, thanks to a friend's prodding.

So, it was on a Tuesday that I dedicated myself to God and on the same day, God gave me a wonderful gift.

I had planned to write this on a Tuesday but I had been busy so time permitting, I wrote it on the Sabbath which is also a day dedicated to God.

It's not to say that God is not present any other day but I just feel even more special that God on our date day gave me such a wonderful gift.

Thank you Lord for the gifts you shower me with everyday of my life. I am not worthy yet your love abounds for me.

I love you too.